Wednesday, November 30, 2005

TechSoup - Forums: De-Geeking, Helpdesk and Support

Interesting conversation about "Are emerging technologies too geeky for nonprofits? Nonprofits, particularly small ones, aren't likely to adopt the latest jargon-filled new technologies just because techies are
excited. So how do you explain the impact that tagging, blogging, and other other Web 2.0 technologies can make?" Read about it: TechSoup - Forums: De-Geeking, Helpdesk and Support.

Categories: ,

links to this post  

Olaf's Notebook: What is the relation between KM and inner reform?

This post from Olaf's Notebook speaks for itself: What is the relation between KM and inner reform?
Knowledge management as social system change requires an inner reform of people involved. Where KM projects are usually 'sold' on the basis of business cases, they should be sold on the basis of 'humanity and consciousness cases' to be effective drivers for social system change.

What can we do if we cannot cope with some aspects of our lives, if we fail in our relationships with other people, if we destroy our opportunities for the future, if we become ill because of work stress? Good chance that we will be advised to start psychotherapy.

What happens if our organizations destroy societal trust relationships, opportunities for future generations, if they make workers ill because of work stress, or exploit workers and children in low-wages countries? Good chance organizational leadership receives shareholders' praise, bonuses, and fame as a captain of industry. No psychotherapy there, and one could only wonder about this double standard.

Corporations and governments debate endlessly on corporate social responsibility, draw up sustainability reporting schemes, codes of conduct etc. I do not deny these agreements can represent steps forward toward sustainable corporate policies. However, what is right or wrong for companies and company leaders to do is not so hard to imagine"

Categories: ,

links to this post  

More from Berkun

See what happens when you wade into an interesting blog? You go b blog crazy. I just have to point out Scott's post on Design Thinking Games
"In my quest for creating simple, pragmatic exercises that promote elements of design thinking, I’ve been looking at games as a core model.

I just submitted a conference proposal looking at games as a way to affect stakeholder mindsets, and am looking at how games provide an avenue for accomodating new perspectives that reframe individuals’ views."

Categories: , , ,

links to this post  

Great Example of Email List Summaries

Wow,the pmclinic: "Weekly Summary Archive" is an amazing act of community love. Taking the time to summarize an email lists discussions can be of huge value. Take a look here for a beautiful example. This is a great community indicator!

Categories: , ,

links to this post  

Seattle Mind Camp Post-Event Debrief (and mini documentary!)

So, a bit more about the debrief of this month's first "Seattle Mind Camp." We did a debrief session at the event and captured the notes, so last night we added on the things that folks blogged about after the event and our own observations. It is great to be able to tap into a group's mind via their blogs (Great debrief, Scott!) after an event. Built in evaluation tools without all those nasty forms and surveys! We are thinking about MindCamp 2 and we are weaving in the great suggestions. (And yes, there will be news soon on Camp2!)

There were two things that most caught my interest.

1. The need to more clearly communicate both expectations and details -- even with an Open Space style event. For example, helping folks who have never been in Open Space get a sense of what it is about. But also more concrete prep things like telling folks to bring their toys (hardware, software, etc.)

2. As always, helping a group connect individual to individual. Some folks are great networkers. Other's aren't. The magic of these events is connecting to other folks. So always ALWAYS pay attention to both the structure and processes that encourage connection. So we are thinking about pre and post online options, ways to encourage connections with alternatives to large group introductions, etc.

More news...Andru, our erstwhile leader, pointed us to the 'hot off the computer' Seattle Mind Camp Mini-Documentary Video:
"I gotta give props to my friends Jesse and Nate of Hidden Frame Productions for taking the time to put this video together. They did their best to capture the overall vibe and energy that went on at Seattle Mind Camp, whether you were there, or if you missed it, you should take a look at the mini documentary.
Only downside of the documentary? As usual, I look like a dork. I guess that's ok at a geek event!

I had to head home before the guys broke out the XBox 360. Some days I shake my head. I have game-loving boys at home and what do I do? Go join a committee of more geek game loving guys!

Categories: , ,

links to this post  

I'm Now Chapter 8 - Collaborative Story Writing on a Blog

I've been posting a bit in the last week about distributed collaborative writing. One of the side benefits of blogging about an idea is that the web of networks between blogs makes connections to related efforts. As a result, I'm now going to write Chapter 8 of Vit's web-blogged, illustrated book (the picture on the right is Vic's). Here is the scoop: vitriolica webb's ite
"Each writer will be randomly assigned a chapter (I will really pull names out of a hat, cos I hate making decisions). Illustrators the same. If you are joining in, write me an email when you read this (to so that I have your email address and to let me know whether you are writing, illustrating or both (and if you would like to illustrate more than once, since there are fewer of us than there are of them!). If you still wanna join and missed the deadline...ach, deadline, scheadline.... , write to me anyway... we can still aspire to 'suitable boy' or 'war and peace' length!

I'm going to set up a fresh blog for the greatest novel ever written and I'll host and post the stuff you email to me.

As soon as I receive each finished chapter I will send it to the illustrator for that chapter and to the writer assigned to the next chapter. As soon as the illustration is ready, I'll post the two together.

Length and style of chapter or style of illustration are purely, simply and entirely up to you. I'll just suggest a tiny something as a start point for the whole thing ... it may be a word or a erm... a bearded nun! "
I'm particularly excited about this because it is writers and illustrators. My partner for chapter 8 is Andre! Whahoooo! Eu gostu disso!

Now I need to write a separate post on collaborative distributed writing/illustrating tools. I was at the Seattle Mind Camp debrief last night and this was a topic of some very interesting conversation.


links to this post  

emerge 2006 Call for Papers

Last year I had the good fortune to support and run an online workshop for eMerge2004. It was a great convergence of smart people, some wonderful home-grown open source online interaction software and fascinating conversations.

Well the great folks from the University of Cape Town are at it again, planning for emerge 2006. If you work in the domain of blended learning in Southern Africa, this Call for Papers is for you!
e/merge 2006 - Learning Landscapes in Southern Africa is the second virtual conference on educational technology in the SADC region and builds on the e/merge 2004 conference. e/merge 2006 will take place online from 10 - 21 July 2006 may include associated face to face events in a number of cities.

This conference focuses on online collaborative learning in our regional context of unequal access to technology and to education. This could involve both online and face to face interaction. We will prioritise high quality papers and presentations which demonstrate responsiveness to the context of learning in Southern African tertiary education including issues of digital divide, differential access to education, and diversity. We would envisage papers in the following areas:

* Research Methodologies
* Access to Learning Technologies
* Theories and models of computer supported collaborative learning
* Learning Communities
* Staff Development
* Learning Environments

We are also interested in receiving proposals for technology demonstrations and online workshops focused on the regional context.

All abstracts will be peer reviewed to ensure that an appropriate range of high quality presentations will be selected. There will be a maximum of 32 presentations in the formal programme. Presentations will be accepted in forms such as full "

Categories: , ,

links to this post  

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Follow Up on my Les Blogs rant - Post from Worker Bees Blog

Disclaimer: I'm on the BlogHer board of advisors.

Elisa, of Worker Bees Blog fame, wrote a spot on piece about why BlogHer is not passe, particularly with respect to the issue of the representation of women's views/thinking/expertise/value at tech conferences.
"Anyway, I've noticed a new phenomenon, I'm sure it is linked to the fact that we've announced BlogHer 06 and made it clear that we are moving onward with the BlogHer Mission to provide education, exposure and community by for and to women bloggers.

The phenomenon is that I get cc'ed on emails from frustrated women naming various conferences and events they've been invited to or heard about, and pointing out the dearth of women on the speaker list. In at least one case the woman didn't feel she could safely blog it herself. But was trying to spread the word to others who might."
Elisa and her readers have a suggestion for us. Let the sponsors of these events know why you aren't going. Do the math. This is an economic issue in many respects and that's the point of leverage. And think beyond the gender issue. What do you want to see represented at the events you fork over your hard earned money for?

What I'm wondering now is how to do this in a constructive manner. I'm really not into bashing, despite my hissy fit blog post last night. If you are a tech conference organizer and want to talk about this, lets convene a conference call with some of the interested folks.

Talk with an action agenda!

Categories: , ,

links to this post  

Hubba, Hubba! New Corante Web Hub Launches

I'm stepping into a bit of a new world today as I join the new Corante Web Hub as a contributor. First, about the hub:
"The Corante Web Hub is your starting point for keeping abreast of the best writing and thinking on the forces and factors impacting the Web and where it's headed. Here you'll find the field's most insightful observers and commentators tracking and reporting on its latest developments as well as weighing in on its future. For a full description of the Web Hub and the Corante Network in general, visit this page.

Click here for a full list of the Web Hub contributors. We encourage you to provide ideas and suggestions as we work to make this hub and the extended network ever more useful - email us at
Basically, Corante is aggregating the post of a group of bloggers for the Web Hub, and is launching two others today as well, the Marketing Hub (which I notice is much more visual plus, ironically, I know more of the contributors!) and the Media Hub. Clearly I've been out of the media mainstream for too long (did you know I worked in broadcasting for 8 years?) to know the folks in that hub!

The Web Hub contributors are:My Reflections
I have to say, this is a bit weird for me. I realized that I'm not sure how my writing and work fits into some worlds, including the "web" hub at Corante. It has been an interesting moment of introspection to think of how the "squishy" work I do around online interaction fits into the more tech-oriented "web" domain. I see some of my network of buddies in the contributor list, which reassures me. (Hm, in fact, it would be very interesting to map the connections of the contributors, something like this that Jack Vinson pointed out earlier today.)

Although we are many separate bloggers, just going about our "normal" daily blogging (that in itself is a funny thought - what the heck is normal?), the hub has provided a mechanism for us to be aware of what others are posting in their blogs in a new way. We are affilliated in a way. I'm realizing that some of us often point to similar things. What does that mean? I'm not sure. Will I be more concious of not duplicating? Will multiple posts about the same thing help us see new patterns?

If I stay concious of the affiliation, it probably will impact my blogging. I'm going to try and pay attention and see what happens.

This is the bottom line question for me, my learning opportunity: what are the impacts of our interconnectedness? The hub offers me, as a blogger, a new set of connections. It offers readers a set as well, should they choose to "read" us as a group.

What will it mean to you?

All in all, I'm happy to be part of this new endeavor and experiment. Nothing better than stepping off a new cliff to see if our wings work!

Categories: , , , ,

links to this post  

Monday, November 28, 2005

Priming the Conference Pump and a Complaint to Some (Blog) Conference Organizers

Blogher Nicole Simon has been posting podcast interviews with presenters at December's LesBlogs 2.0. This is a great way to prime the pump for a conference. It gives people a taste -- which is good if the presenters are great -- and helps build excitement. If people listen and use the comment feature, they can begin connecting -- even better. LesBlogs is fortunate to have Nicole do this.

Now for my snarky comment to the folks organizing Les Blogs. I'm sorry. I've been resisting but it is late at night and I'm giving in...

First a disclaimer. I wrote to Loïc Le Meur, the prime Les Blogs organizer, and offered to speak as I was possibly going to be in Europe at the time. In my offer, I also pointed to a few other very cool women and said I could find more if he needed it. He responded quickly and said he'd get back to me. Never did. Pfft. I probably should have written to Elisabeth Albrycht who I later learned was also a co-organizer. Maybe I would have gotten more traction for the plea to have more women at the podium. I don't care if they didn't want me -- in truth I believe they are much better served by European speakers. But I did care that people follow up as they suggest the would. Ahem. (yeah, it's late... my snarky side, which I usually repress, is in full bloom.)

In they end, the Les Blogs organizers did a wretched job tapping into the diverse set of women blogging talent in Europe. And they were not the first. This fall a blogging conference in Portugal noted that half the bloggers in Portugal are women. Yet there, few women were speaking. An event in London earlier this year (I need to mine the link) had the same issues.

What gives? I am beginning to believe that blogging conference organizers think blogging is a male sport with a few token women (usually the same ones, no offence, sistahs) tossed in to say they tried. Come on guys, we have been offering you suggestions in the comments of your speaker list. There is a women's speaker wiki. There is no excuse for the feeble ration of women to men (by my count 7:44) presenters. There are tons of fabulous women doing cool things in Europe. It is hard to keep giving you guys the benefit of the doubt. If you don't have the contacts, ask some women. Remember, we're great networkers! (snarky face)

The Bottom Line
There are financial implications to the short sightedness of conference organizers. We have economic clout and we are not going to spend our bucks on your conferences if you keep ignoring us. You are not only losing by not having more, great, women speakers presenting more diverse ideas. You are losing seat sales. Look at the participant list at Les Blogs. Mostly men. Look at the market you are missing and connect the dots. We want to see ourselves represented in your offerings, not the same old boys.

Come on, take a risk. You will win. And if you need our help, we're happy to offer it.

What does it take to turn the tide?

Categories: , , , ,

links to this post  

Communities are like a slice of good layer cake

I have been involved lately in a lot of projects with distributed communities and groups of many types. They are complex. Sometimes they are darned complicated. The challenge I find in talking to people about these kinds of groups is that they want a simple explanation, a tidy set of easily describable practices to make them work.

I don't succeed very well in that.

So I've been playing with metaphors. Here is one: a distributed group is like a delicious layer cake (in this illustration, a souped-up German chocolate cake with an extra addition of layers of ganache - more chocolate. Always more chocolate.)

When you look at the whole assembled frosted cake, you see the final product. It looks like a single entity.

As you look closer, you see the texture of the icing. Drips may be on the edge of the cake plate. Sprinkles of coconut slipped off to the side.

Cut in an the layers reveal themselves. A layer of chocolate sponge cake. The thick-gooey coconut/pecan/caramelized milk layer. A thin separating wash of ganache.

These are not random layers. The cake balances the sweet, chewiness of the filling. The dark, creamy ganache keeps the flaky cake from falling apart and absorbing too much moisture. The light and the heavy. The sweet and the almost bitter. The smooth and the crunchy.

It is the marrying of that diversity, each into a bite of cake, that makes it great.

Same for distributed teams. By dint of being able to be anywhere, they can be diverse. But they need their "flavors" to find a point of harmony. Still distinct. Still identifiable, but sublimely successful when taken together.

Categories: , , , ,

links to this post  

Tom Davenport on Knowledge Workers

I realized about 10 years ago that I was a knowledge worker. That's another story for another time, but because of this I appreciated Tom Davenports post on reflecting on his presentation at this years KM-World. Reflecting on KM-World...
"I spoke about my book Thinking for a Living and the various types of interventions that one can make into knowledge work. As I spoke I became even more convinced that improving the performance of knowledge workers is what knowledge management should be about. God knows, nobody else is addressing the issue, and with that focus knowledge managers could address a range of solutions that go beyond just technology. Somebody needs to be thinking, for example, about how knowledge workspaces affect knowledge work, and lobbying on behalf of knowledge workers with the facilities and real estate people. Somebody needs to look at what the “self service” movement in organizations—having knowledge workers do all their own administrative transactions—is doing for knowledge worker productivity. Somebody needs to be thinking about how knowledge workers manage their personal information and knowledge environments. Most of the technologies at the KM World conference were oriented to making knowledge work more productive anyway. I think we should step up to that responsibility in terms of technology and anything else that might help."
Now, I'm not sure no one else is addressing these issues. Earlier this year the KM4Dev group talked about knowledge worker environments and published a summary of those reflections in it's journal. The conversations are around me all the time. But maybe they aren't getting press!

By the way, Tom is blogging with Larry Prusak and Don Cohen as part of an offering from Babson Executive Education. Looks interesting!

Categories: , , ,

links to this post  

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Speaking of Collaborative Writing - Here is a new experiment in progress!

This one will be writing and images! Juicy! vitriolica webb's ite:
"Which gave me an idea the other day (although Keith is now claiming it as HIS idea, honestly, men). A story. Told a chapter at a time by bloggers, in the style of their choosing. What a laugh. D'ya wanna? D'ya wanna? huh? huh? D'ya wanna? let me know if you want in.
Here is Vitriolica's proposed process:
When I have everyone in (by the end of Friday), i'll put anyone who wants to write in a cyber-hat and assign a chapter number. Then I'll do the same for the illustrators. Then we'll get this bloomin' thing started. And to have each chapter written in the style of each blogger's blog would be fantabulous. And even though this is going to be in English, if English isn't your mother tongue feel free to join in. "
Hm, I think I shall toss my hat in the ring (as if I needed something else to do. Oi!)


links to this post  

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Thoughtful Essay on the "Helpfulness" of Pilots in ICT for Development

In a slight contrast to the previous piece, here is another thought provoking article from Islam Online- Health & Science: "Are Pilot Projects Helping Development?
Thousands of ‘pilot projects’ have been seeded all over the developing world during the past few years to find out if information and communications technologies (ICTs) can foster development. Among these are attempts to put computers in underprivileged schools, provide internet access to the poor, or bring ‘community radio’ to villages.

The development community, ever anxious to coin more jargon and acronyms, now has a collective name for these efforts: ICT4D (ICT for development).

Of course, there is nothing wrong in trying out new ways of improving lives and livelihoods. Every possible tool must be employed in the global battle against poverty. If technologies can offer part of the solution, we should indeed welcome it.

But the enormous development challenges we face, captured in recent years by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), are not going to benefit from what I call ‘forever-pilots’: projects that remain externally supported for years or decades, and never seem to stand on their own.

It is also strange how the generic ideas behind these pilots are not imitated, in a world that is quick to emulate—even pirate or plagiarize—good ideas.

Here in Tunis, where a massive ICT4D exhibition ran parallel to the official, inter-governmental meeting, project proponents from UN agencies, civil society and the private sector have spent much time, effort and money in promoting their pet pilots.

Phrases like ‘up-scaling’ and ‘ensuring sustainability’ have been tossed about over endless cups of coffee. But these are precisely what the forever-pilots fail to accomplish.

One much hyped project comes from my own country, Sri Lanka: the Kotmale Internet radio project. Established in 1999, it used a “community radio” service, a rural broadcast from the fully state-owned radio network, to bring the World Wide Web slightly closer to its listeners.

Surfing the web was not a practical option in the Kotmale valley, some 250 km (155.3 mi.) away from the capital. So a daily two-hour interactive radio program enabled listeners to request (by live telephone or by post) information on any topic. Radio presenters sourced it from various websites and summarized on air in the local language, Sinhala.

This helped to overcome the twin problems of Internet access and English proficiency. For a while, the station also provided free Internet access at two public libraries and at the station itself. The capital and running costs were covered by donors.

The project appealed to communications researchers and journalists all in search of a “good story”. Never mind the project was government-driven, and rarely provided information of economic or social value. In reality, the community had no say in either management or content development. Nestled in the scenic Kotmale valley, the pilot project had all the ‘sexy’ trappings for the development community.

But when the donors finally wearied of funding, everything came to a standstill. Amazingly, however, the project lives on in development textbooks and websites, and is still cited widely as a South Asian ‘success’.

If it was such a success, why didn’t it spawn similar efforts in Sri Lanka or elsewhere? The rural and urban information needs are vast and remain unmet.

Joining Kotmale are a large number of other ‘small-is-beautiful’ ICT4D initiatives across Africa, Asia Pacific and Latin America. The tele-centre fever that is currently sweeping the developing world is only the latest wave. Tax payers in the North keep these numerous projects on life support, believing the hype that it really helps the poor.

Gunawardene goes on to say how donors might more productively channel their support.
"Development donors looking for a bigger bang for their increasingly limited buck should put more money in regulatory and structural reforms that have tangible downstream returns."
Good advice. I have been part of my share of pilots and have felt the pain of their demise at the end of funding cycles. The politically correct lip service to sustainability rarely pans out the way we expect. If you are interested in this, go and read the full article.

But also consider the unexpected and unintended consequences of pilots. At the end of one project that, while running, seemed so successful, I sympathized with my colleagues as we sadly saw most of it fade away. But we didn't look in the right places. Although the formal programs, the computers and the project had ended, people's thinking about collaboration had changed. They saw new possibilities of working between villages and not feeling isolated and alone. Was it worth the millions poured in? My distant view is no, it did not get as much value out of the investment as we'd all have wished. Our "plan" for sustainability relied on unreliable partners. But something did change. Hopefully for the better. But the question remains: how successful are we, with all our good intentions, of helping communities do what they want to do for a better life?

Categories: ,

links to this post  

A little Peace for Thanksgiving

In the (belated) spirit of ThanksGiving, check out this piece on Peace:Information and Communication Technology for Peace: The Role of ICT in Preventing,Responding to and Recovering from Conflict(application/pdf Object).

By Daniel Stauffacher, William Drake, Paul Currion and Julia Steinberger

Preface by Kofi Annan

Annan's intro:
As the underpinning for early warning systems, ICTs are crucial in weatherforecasting and in building resilient communities better able to respond to humanitarian emergencies. When disaster does strike, ICTs are helping us to better coordinate complex relief missions. This role has taken on even greater significance in the past year, following the Indian Ocean tsunami, hurricanerelated
flooding in Central America and a devastating earthquake in Pakistan.

ICTs are also critical tools in peacekeeping operations, including in logistics. Moreover, ICTs can help address the root causes of violent conflict. By promoting access to knowledge, they can promote mutual understanding, an essential factor in conflict prevention and post-conflict reconciliation. ICTs also offers ways to reveal human rights abuses, promote transparent governance, and give people living under repressive regimes access to uncensored information and an outlet to air their grievances and appeal for help.

The technology by itself is no panacea or magic formula. Political will is required to respond to information, to share it widely and equitably, and to ensure global dissemination of ICTs. In that context, I strongly welcome the initiative taken by the Government of Switzerland to study the role of science and technology in advancing our work for peace. This report showcases many instances of actors coming together to use technology to prevent, stop and remedy man-made disasters. It also offers valuable policy recommendations covering such key issues as trust, security, inter-agency coordination, best practices and common standards. I commend the
information and analysis contained here to a wide global audience.

Categories: , ,

links to this post  

Collaborative (Novel and other) Writing

While goofing off over the holiday weekend (if you are in the US) why not write a novel with a bunch of friends. If you want to, check out Glypho, "A fun new way to read and write novels."

Over pumpkin pie on Thursday with a writer (screen plays, novels, non fiction) we talked about the dynamics of shared online writing, of wikis and whiteboards, and passing of versions of Word documents. As a mediocre writer, I appreciate the improvements others can offer to my writing. As professional writer, my friend was less sure. She gets paid to write, so having someone else mess with her writing doesn't jive.

I have had some fantastic co-writing experiences. And some that were miserable. Currently I'm working on a large piece with two other people. Quite frankly, it has taken us about a year to get our writing rythm down. Part of it is time and scheduling. But the other part is how we open up ownership between us; how we react to major edits or changes made by each other; and how we gracefully segue to subsequent iterations.

We are mostly using Word docs with markup. We are not writing fast, so the passing around of versions is ok.

On another project four of us are creating a FAQ for a community of practice we belong to. We are actually getting the FAQ started and are role modeling some possibilities for wider engagement by the community. We are drafting our FAQ in a wiki, with the longer term plan of moving "completed" FAQs to our open source CMS, Zaraya.

I'm loving editing in the wiki, as is at least one other in the group - who was a skeptic. I'm enjoying that he is enjoying it. It is like watching a tapestry form.

Do you write collaboratively with others? How? What tools? What practices?

Categories: ,

links to this post  

Friday, November 25, 2005

Flickr as Recipe Community

Via Lifehacker I saw this
"Over at Flickr we found this great recipe for stuffed eggplant with apple cherry crisp!

Flickr is a great tool to share your favorite recipes. You can start by uploading photos and providing detailed descriptions that explain your preparation methods. Then once you’ve grouped them into a set, add an overview, with a list of ingredients, and share away. Yummy!"
Here are a few examples:

If you surf around, you will see all sorts of food community indicators on Flickr. Groups about food, or particular food, restaurants... all beautifully illustrated to make you drool on your keyboard.

Categories: , , ,

links to this post  

Wednesday, November 23, 2005 | Free, Open Source Learning Community Tools

I'd be curious to hear from anyone using this tool. Have you? | home:
"SINAPSE is a free, open source technology written in PHP and developed by students at the University of Oklahoma, along with several partner schools. With SINAPSE a university can produce an internal, customizable and interactive online student community - nexus - which facilitates communication and collaboration among students, faculty and the entire campus community.

SINAPSE is a modular technical framework of student-centered services that can be modified, with minimal technical expertise, to suit the specialized needs of any school or organization. Also, with an innovative on-site student support team, SINAPSE addresses the needs of user education, campus promotion, and student team building, which will lead to a highly trafficked site that will represent a university's individual culture and identity.

Categories: , ,

links to this post  

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

randomnonsense - Technorati Women

I found this via my bloglines sub to sites that link to my site. randomnonsense today appears to be tracking sites tagged with "women" via technorati. An interesting slice of blogging life. Earlier posts track other links related to women. Interesting.

Categories: ,

links to this post  

The SHARE crew - When Online goes Face to Face

The SHARE crew
Originally uploaded by suz567.
Last week the Share Your Story community had it's first face to face event, ShareUnion. (Reunion - get it?) Nearly a dozen members of the community (which now numbers over 7000 just 14 months past its birth)convened at the March of Dimes headquarters in White Plains, NY, the day before National Prematurity Awareness Day. The families and their loved ones spend the day learning more about the March of Dimes, remembering all their beloved babies who were born prematurely or spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in a rememberance ceremony and just plain hanging out with each other. Even 3000 miles away I could feel the love and emotion that converged on ShareUnion.

The intersection between our online and face to face lives is important and precious.

Categories: , ,

links to this post  

Ray Ozzie's Blog and RSS becoming Two Way

I don't pretend to totally understand this from a technological perspective, but I sure do from a user perspective. Despite the celebration of the power of personal publishing (blogs, podcasts, etc.) I'm not always wanting a one way stream. (But I am owing James Farmer a comment on this thing thing he writes about that sometimes worries me as too "me-centric." But that's too simplistic. And heck, I lost the place where this conversation was happening. How's that for not-so-meshed!) I want and need collaboration. Negotiation -- even of calendars!

In his post, Really Simple Sharing Ray shares his team's new idea, via his own personal example (useful for us protogeeks). I'm including a fairly large snippet because - well, because I need it for understanding, so maybe some of you will too!
"Using RSS itself as-is for synchronization wasn't really an option. That is, RSS is primarily about syndication - unidirectional publishing - while in order to accomplish the “mesh” sharing scenarios, we'd need bi-directional (actually, multi-directional) synchronization of items. But RSS is compelling because of the power inherent in its simplicity.

This got me to thinking about simplicity. Notes had just about the simplest possible replication mechanism imaginable. After all, we built it at Iris in 1985 for use on a 6Mhz 286-based IBM PC/AT with incredibly slow-seeking 20MB drives. We were struggling with LIM EMS trying to make effective use of more than 1MB of memory. Everything about the design was about implementation simplicity and efficiency. So if simple is the goal, why not just adapt the Notes replication algorithm to this need? Notes "notefiles" could be analogous to RSS "feeds"; and Notes "notes" could be analogous to RSS "items"; and Notes "items" could be analogous to XML "elements".

Notefiles replicate by using a very simple mechanism based on GUID assignment, with clocks and tie-breakers to detect and deterministically propagate modifications. Something like this could easily be represented in XML. Notefiles replicate with one another in a decentralized, masterless manner; feeds could be "cross-subscribed" in a similar manner. There's no magic to it once you know specifically what you're trying to accomplish, but it certainly helped to have an existence proof.

And so we created an RSS extension that we refer to as Simple Sharing Extensions or SSE. In just a few weeks time, several Microsoft product groups and my own 'concept development group' built prototypes and demos, and found that it works and interoperates quite nicely.

We’re pretty excited about the extension - well beyond the uses that catalyzed its creation. It’s designed in such a way that the minimum implementation is incredibly easy, and so that higher-level capabilities such as conflict handling can be implemented in those applications that want to do such things.

Early on, after we had a prototype going, I met with Dave to tell him about it and perhaps get him involved. Immediately at our first meeting he spotted its potential to solve something else he had been thinking about – replicating changes among OPML lists or outlines being managed within different services or by different people. He challenged us to see if the same SSE mechanisms could be applied to OPML. As it turned out, only minor changes were required. In essence, by connecting these dots between what we’d done to extend RSS and his vision for OPML, Dave's catalyzing a new form of decentralized collaborative outlining.

At this point, various groups at Microsoft have begun to further develop their early prototypes to see what we can learn, and to ensure that the spec is sufficient. There's nothing to announce right now in terms of which products will support the spec, when, and for what purpose, but people are experimenting with it and are intrigued. It’s time to bring the spec to you, so that you can do the same.

We’ve numbered the draft specification 0.9 because we have a good degree of confidence in its usefulness based on the prototyping that we’ve done thus far, but it’s certainly not a 1.0 and I would certainly caution against building anything ‘production’ on it quite yet.

Here’s the draft spec for SSE, and here’s a FAQ that we put together. A forum where we can talk about it amongst implementers will be forthcoming.

(Props for making the spec and early prototypes actually happen go out to the individuals in many product groups - you know who you are - who were motivated enough to want to enable this scenario for users. And to Dave for extending it to OPML. It's been fun working with all of you, and impressive how rapidly this could happen.)

One other important point: We’re releasing the SSE specification under a Creative Commons license – Attribution-ShareAlike. I’m very pleased that Microsoft is supporting the Creative Commons approach; you can see more about this at in the licensing section at the end of the spec.
I'm happy to see the open source note, so I included that part of the snippet.

Categories: , , ,

links to this post  

mimoco - More fun from your USB pen drive

So I'm in clear work avoidance mode. This is an indicator I'm on the second draft of a piece of writing. I have to break it up frequently.
I have been accused of "all work, not enough play." Well heck, I love to work. So I like playful toys at work -- and toys that WORK! That made mimoco USB pen drive characters so appealing to me!

Technorati Tags: ,

links to this post  

What an artist can do: 3D Pavement Drawings

In a random link-following work break, I came upon this July post in Anomyst's Daily Bloggle. The images of 3D chalk pavement drawings are MIND-BOGGLING. What an artist can do and how the human eye can process are astounding.

links to this post  

CorporatePR: Collaboration Requires Contribution

Elizabeth Albrycht has a nice article on collaboration. It is written in a business context, but could apply to any non profit/NGO as well. I've pulled out a few snippets. If I wasn't on deadline, I'd have commentary, but if I don't post this now, it won't ever get posted!

CorporatePR: Collaboration Requires ContributionCollaboration Requires Contribution
One of our ten tools for network building is participation/collaboration. I like to think about this in terms of community and the building of social capital. Both the development of communities and social capital requires reciprocity - the willingness to both take AND give -- to contribute.

Before your organization decides to enter the blogosphere in order to enhance its network building efforts, it has to answer this important question: What do we have to offer to the communities we want to join/build?

If your answer is only "information about our company and products" then you need to head back to the drawing board.
She goes on to describe attributes of community, along with a nice quick lit review. Check it out. The four "generally accepted psychological attributes of community" are (from McMillan and Chavis (1986))
* Feelings of membership: Feelings of belonging to, and identifying with, the community;
* Feelings of influence: Feelings of having influence on, and being influenced by, the community;
* Integration and fulfillment of needs: Feelings of being supported by others in the community while also supporting them; and
* Shared emotional connection: Feelings of relationships, shared history, and a “spirit” of community.

Elizabeth points to one of my favorite ideas, reciprocity.

"Generalized reciprocity" is one of the keys for building social capital as well. For our purposes in thinking about contribution, it is clear that we are not simply talking about contributing information. Human emotional connections are also important. This is a difficult hurdle for many corporations, as their representatives are so used to thinking in terms of formal, third-person voice when communicating to their audiences. Be it the website, brochures, press releases, canned elevator speeches, etc., all of these formal tools are not tremendously helpful when it comes to participating in a community.
Finally she lists things groups could offer to the communities they want to join/build?
* Recognition
* Ideas on How to Solve Problems
* Support
* Gratitude: Don't forget to thank people for the contributions they make to you.
* Thoughtful Recommendations/Referrals: Don't hoard information.
* Honesty: Don't lie.
* Clarification: Written communications is always susceptible to misunderstandings, particularly informal communications.
ALSO see Elizabeth's Ten Tools for Network Building

In our focus on network building, we take "content" to be one tool among many. Of course, that begs the question, what are the other tools? Here is a list, not perfect yet, but I think a good start (in no particular order of importance):

* Technology (trackbacks, RSS, tags, etc.)
* Knowledge (who is influential, who is trusted, who is controversial, etc.)
* Online social skills (ability to approach other people in appropriate ways)
* Participation/Collaboration (via comments, trackbacks, email, etc.)
* Reputation/Trust (what you have now, what is developed over time)
* Politics (an opinion or stated position)
* Permeable organizational boundaries
* Time management
* Flexibility (ability to make changes in all of the above as needed)
Good stuff for community builders of any kind.

Categories: ,

links to this post  

Knowledge Sharing and Social Software Wiki

As part of the AOK Star Series with Denham I mentioned in the last post, he has created a great wiki on Knowledge Sharing and Social Software . FANFRICKENTASTIC! Even if I hate the term "social software!"

Categories: , ,

links to this post  

Great Podcasting Concept Map

Via Denham Grey, a fabulous concept map on podcasting from Barbara Bowen. Podcasting5 - What is Podcasting?

Also of note, Denham is the AOK guest right now - worth the $50 annual membership fee just for this one alone!

Categories: ,

links to this post  

Anonymizing Google's cookie

Via Liz, Anonymizing Google's cookie, a little bookmarklet that helps remove your personal identifiers from Google's useful, but potentially creepy cookie (my words, not theirs!)
If you use Google, and you accept it's cookie, you should give some thought to the implications, both good and potentially bad : this page tries to help you do that, together with an easy way to anonymize it without missing out on its benefits."

Categories: ,

links to this post  

Monday, November 21, 2005

Welcome to Blogging, Shelly

Shelly Farnham has started a blog! Yay! You can find her thinking about the intersection between the social and the technical (and I presume a lot more) at socialtech. Yippee!

Categories: ,

links to this post  

Friday, November 18, 2005

Another Web 2.0 Line I Can Adopt

So, my cynical side is getting a whopping today as I browse blogs while waiting for a global telephone based meeting to get rolling. Rebecca McKinnon has one from China.
"One of the most important words in the Chinese language is “guanxi.” It means “relationship.” Whatever you think about the term “Web2.0”, the point is that social networking and relationship-building are at the core of today’s most exciting web innovations. The Chinese happen to be the most natural and skilled social networkers on earth."
So... willingness, experiment, connect, relationship -- these make sense. Further, they are not new to Web 2.0, and they will be around long after the label fades away.

Categories: ,

links to this post  

Zuckerman's Distillation of WSIS in Tunisia

Ethan blogs at …My heart’s in Accra
"Frustrated as I am about the amounts of money spent on WSIS that could be spent on the ground (does a $500k display booth for a World Bank connectivity project really benefit anyone?), I’m glad to see that an idea that was marginal and radical in 2000 - the idea that everyone has a right to create, share and access information - is mainstream enough to draw 18,000 to a conference hall in 2005."
The word evolution comes to mind.

Categories: , ,

links to this post  

A Web 2.0 Description I Can Live With

I've been telling anyone who listens to be careful of Web 2.0 hype. Everything evolves. We need labels to help boost things along and, yes, market. So "Web 2.0" can be a handle to focus discussion or a pile of hyped up manure. That said, here is one from J. LeRoy that I can buy, lock stock and smoking bytes:
"I think another part of Web 2.0 is the willingness to experiment. "
. Willingness. Experiment. Words I like!

Categories: , ,

links to this post  

Frank's Conference Wish List as a Point of Departure

A couple of days ago I left a comment on Frank Paynter's blog wrapup of the Corante/Berkman Social Software Conference. I asked "What would be on your conference wish list?" Frank emailed me to let me know he replied in a whole new posting - a great gift to wake up to. First, thanks, Frank. Second, this is a great point of departure to think more about conference design and experience. Here is Frank's wishlist.

  • A powerful assemblage of participants: bright, knowledgeable, caring, unselfish people, with expertise in their fields.
  • Mingling opportunities: a chance to more than rub shoulders, but also to converse, to laugh, to play together, a chance to follow-up after the conference. More than that special exchange of business cards and self-conscious 'networking', I want these events to share their rosters among the participants and to provide time and space for people to get to know each other more deeply than by professional reputation.
  • I want a strong, coherent agenda. I'd like a University gathering to have an academic focus, to be challenging intellectually and not to cover too much old ground.
  • Small meetings within a conference are preferable to large presentation spaces. There isn't sufficient time or social bandwidth to explore things meaningfully in a room of 100 or more participants.
  • Professional facilitation is important. Whether the participants' power comes from their brilliance, their pocketbooks, their unique glandular output or some combination, I prefer a professional facilitator engaged to lead meetings rather than a designated expert.
Nancy, these are a few of the things on my conference wish list. And, I almost forgot... good schwag. Send me home with a coffee cup, a flash drive, a canvas bag, something that I can put my monkey paws on later and remember the day.
I realized as I read Frank's list that I am asking a question that needs more grounding in context. My question (and I assume, Frank's answer) assumed there is one type of conference -- which is false. We have all kinds of gatherings we call "conference." So maybe it would be helpful to think of some of the types of things we call conferences. We might even be able to express them along a continuum.

For example conferences for :

  • ...sharing out ideas and information - these take the form of someone "presenting" to others, be that one to many or many to many. Generally these are formalized with an individual or small group determining the agenda and process. Activites embodied in this might be evangelizing, teaching, promoting, rallying. Broadcast. Scripted. Political rallies and trade show presentations (and the accompanying artifacts of schwag!) come to mind. Shared group experience may one one of the (idealized?) outcomes. Flexible interaction happens outside of official "sessions."
  • ...legitimizing a profession/something. Academic gatherings come to mind, with their association with papers, posters, published proceedings and peer review. The controlled set of circumstances is deeply rooted in the profession, its legitimacy and the establishment of personal reputation, so the form is pretty rigid. Informal and flexible interactions happen in the margins, breaks and cracks.
  • ...creating or remixing ideas - give and take of ideas that results in reshaping and creating of a new output. Future Search and Appreciative Inquiry conferences come to mind. These are crafted by a small group, but control is shared with the participants during the event by designing participation consistently through the gathering.
  • ...sharing and cocreating an experience. While content has a place in every gathering, some "feel" to me like an experience. In the forms above, that experience is created and controlled mostly by others. But there are forms that are created by the participants. Open Space gatherings, "camps" and other highly participatory methdologies describe this sort of gathering. They imply a strong dependence on participation to make it work. These are not passive, while the above forms can be. (Don't HAVE to be!) They have both a cost and a benefit to participants, both of which have to be embraced for success.

Now in that list I talked as if these were all geographically co-located, but I think they apply to online and blended events as well. And blended is a key thing for me these days, and also something Frank picked up on in the before/after missed opportunities of Corante's recent social software conference.

Frank's wishlist seems to imply some of the traditional forms - strong presenters is a perfect example. Corante advertised its event as an "unconference." I am wondering out loud here if this one of those places where mixed intentions and expectations can mess us up. A key lesson for me when designing events is to be explict about intent and expectation. So if it is all about listening to a few really bright people, say so. When it is about broad participation, make that real. I detect some slippage at the Corante event as evidenced by reading blog posts of attendees. So know, I'm drawing conclusions where I have no freakin' business nor knowledge!

I should also make a disclaimer here. I was on the Corante/Berkman conference advisory board, but I don't think (I don't know) if I had any impact on the event. Certainly a lot of the form suggestions I and others made pushing it to more of an open event were not embodied. From what I can read, it was not an "unconference" in that it was still a top down structure.

For me unconference is not just a matter of having panels and audience discussions. It is about moving totally off the podium! But that's my personal bias! And our biases do inform our design. Let's not kid ourselves. We craft things we'd like. It is much harder to craft what others' want, particularly if it doesn't fit our mental model.

I should also note that there was some miscommunication on the Corante/Berkman event page that indicated early on I would be at the event. I was clear that I could not attend as I was already going to EPIC2005, but nonetheless, I continue to get emails from people telling me their surprise of not seeing me there. This raises a whole other fertile question about what is the role of advisory groups - beyond name and political corectness in service of marketing - legitimate needs, but not all there is. I'll leave that one for later! :-)

Lots of food for thought and clearly, F2F time is SO PRECIOUS we need to make sure we make the most of it. So event design is important. Heck, online connection time is precious, so design online and offline is important! And we can remix elements to create new forms. Key is being clear with participants so they can say yes or now with some insight.

What do you think?

Categories: , , ,

links to this post  

Paul Pena Has Left the Room

Via Chris Corrigan I belatedly read that musician Paul Pena passed on October 1st.
"I regret I must report Paul Pena was found dead of pancreatitis in his apartment by his friend Pancho at about 8 PM, Saturday, October 1st, 2005. I’m still awaiting details. But he’d been told he had three months to live years ago; it was not a big surprise."
Spider Robinson goes on to give a great review of this amazing artist's life. I first heard Pena's music while sitting in an apartment in Baku, Azerbaijan. My mind was in an exceedingly open space, having spent the last 10 days in Central Asia. When Paul's music hit me between the ears it was as if I connected with some old, inner piece of me. I went on to devour everything I could find of his work, including the amazing Genghis Blues movie on DVD chronicalling his trip to Tuva in 1995, following the unfilled wishes of Richard Feynman.

In 2001 and 2002 I attempted to contact Pena, knowing he was sick and, as I understood, in financial straights. Never got a response. I kept having the feeling I should reach out in some way to repay what he gave me through his music.

To this day when I need to ground, to reconnect, to slow down, I put on the Genghis CD. And I feel a debt to Paul.

Categories: ,

links to this post  

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Magnatune: "The open music record label"

I'm currently sampling music from Magnatune, a MP3 music and music licensing service (royalty free music and license music).

Take a look at this company. It is built on


They let you listen to any and all of their music for free. If and when you want to buy, you can download or download and get a physical CD. You can burn your downloads. You can GIVE COPIES TO THREE OF YOUR FRIENDS. You can podcast their music. And the split with musicians is 50/50.

Marketing genius. Now I have to go find some music I like so I can support them. After Sony's egregious move with their tracking software, my ideal is to be able to move towards using services like Magnatune.

P.S. (a few minutes later) - I found Jami Sieber! Jami is an amazing cellist. I knew her and her work from her days in the band, Rumors of the Big Wave.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

links to this post  

Good, evil and technology -

Scott Berkun has a very thoughtful essay (#48 in a series) on Good, evil and technology. Scott, who I met and listened to at MindCamp, came across to me as a thoughtful, energetic change agent (first impression - we didn't get a chance to talk much. He also was very graceful when I was a challenging audience member!). In #48, Scott asks designers and engineers to think about their values as they become expressed in the things they make. He writes:
The implications of things
Every tool has an implied morality. There is a value system that every machine, program, or website has built into it that's comprehendible if you look carefully. As two polarizing examples, look at these two things: a machine gun and a wheelchair.

Machine gun


Both of these have very clear purposes in mind and behind each purpose is a set of values. The wheelchair is designed to support someone. The machine gun is designed to kill someone (or several someones).

Many of the products we make don't have have as clearly defined values. However as I mentioned earlier, the absence of value is a value: not being explicitly evil isn'’t the same as being good. If I make a hammer, it can be used to build homes for the needy, or to build a mansion for a bank robber. I can be proud of the hammer'’s design, but I can'’t be certain that I'’ve done a good thing for the world: the tool'’s use is too basic to define it as good or bad.

It's common to see toolmakers, from search engines to development tools, take credit for the good they see their tools do, while ignoring the bad. This isn't quite right: they are equally involved in the later as they are in the former.

The conclusion to this is that to do good things for people requires a more direct path than the making of tools. Helping the neighbor'’s kid learn math, volunteering at the homeless shelter or donating money to the orphanage are ways to do good things that have a direct impact, compared to the dubious and sketchy goodness of indifferent tool making.
Of course, I'm nodding in firm agreement because I do believe everything we create carries, in some ways, our values and beliefs. Thus technology is never neutral. Our cultures are infused into it. Likewise, the things we make are not always used as we intend. That, however, does not abdicate the responsibility to be aware of what we carry into what we build and our thoughtful consideration and choices in how we do it.

Categories: ,

links to this post  

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

EPIC 2005: Quick Break Reflections

My hands are wearing out, which is typical on the second day of live blogging.

I can much more easily capture the short cutting edge papers (stories) this afternoon, but there were some compelling slides that would greatly improve how I share out what is going on here.

I enjoyed seeing the use of blogs in the "Worst Technology for Girls" and "Accelerating Collaboration with Social Tools." Their stories reflect experiences I've had, but which I have had less success talking about - helping others see the possibilities I experienced. I have to work on that.

I have to capture the thoughts I've been having about the roles and expectations we have of presenters -- AND participants!! More unconference thoughts.

Time for a coffee.

Categories: , , Categories:

links to this post  

EPIC 2005 Cutting-Edge Paper #4 - Social tools to accelerate collaboration

Dina Mehta and Alex Mack
Accelerating Collaboration with Social Tools

How we collaborated on a project across international boundaries. Originated in Pitney Bowes. Alex based in an R&D group0. Teams in US and India. Use team need to “see” and “hear”. We work as a design firm. Go out collect ethnographic data, bring in back and brainstorm, develop test and refine. We consider ourselves and innovation unit rather than a design unit. Looking for bigger ideas.

This project was our first project outside the US. Not only based outside US in India, and a broad strategic questions – how can PB create value for postal and financial institutions in rural and urban India. Big. I’m an anthropologist with field work experience in India and the rest of the team did not. We did want to maintain or philosophies and methodologies. Observational fieldwork, brainstorming, prototyping. We wanted to be there. But important to have researchers on the ground, from India, who know the culture and insights. So hired Dina to do most of the fieldwork for us. But not all. We felt important for US team members to spend time in India. Outsiders can have some insights. Pictures of range of where we worked. Post offices in rural and urban India.

Started off by going to India to learn each other’s methods of working, F2f, WEEKLY protocols for phone calls, email, pictures, weekly written report. There were time lags and misunderstandings. Dina pushed us to work through those.

Dina – Not going to go into what a blog is. We set up a blog for the project. Briefly a space available online to publish. Publishing tool. It is one that becomes and exchange space for a team working together. You can build a community around your blog. IN this case what worked was that we set it up after about a year in the project. (Had some security issues). Password protected blog. One of the big benefits – it did not replace other forms, like email, but it cut it down. It enhanced the communication. Our weekly phone calls were more productive beyond reporting. We could brainstorm, take things further, plan better in our calls. The other big advantage was we could get to the same wavelength quicker. Would not have to wait for weekly reports. I’d come back from fieldwork and put information right in. What we did, what we could do better. Giving each other constant feedback with the comments on the blog posts. All this gets recorded chronologically ordered, searchable archive. Spaces which existed as our archive. We posted as separate authors. If you look at the left hand (screen shot) there are categories that emerged as the work went on. Advantage of this space. Could upload pictures, conversations in the comments were of great values. Separate strands which were searchable. It was a chaotic informal spontaneous intuitive exercise. In that there was wonder and creativity. It was a very decentralized self organizing system that organized around the work.

Blogs do have weaknesses. No threading in comments. We had some issues with printing. But Pitney Bowes hired some tech support to fix those problems. Also used other tools. We used Skype a lot. Simple internet telephony. Brought immediate and real time interaction. With Skype you have online presence indicators. Alex could see when I was online. She could ask a quick clarifying question. Ping me and chat for a minute, handle issues at that point in time. Also developed the paper on a wiki. Wikpedia is a good example. There’s tagging and other examples.

How important that PB spent time in India and did field work. (See slides). On engineer said “before I went to India I had a good mental pictures. Conversations with people weren’t different the things I found different were the day-to-day life. … See paper.”

The day-to-day life is important context for innovation and design.

(Dina, can I interview you on this while you are in Seattle?)

Categories: , ,

links to this post  

EPIC 2005 Cutting-Edge #3 The Worst Technology for Girls

Wendy March, Constance Fleuriot
The Worst Technology for Girls
Piece of research looking at how teenage girls use technology in everyday life to protect privacy. How useful the silent nature of text and IM was for their privacy. What are the differences between the US and UK? What be the worst technology they can imagine?

Participants were 24 girls, set up with a shared blog with pairs or trios of girls. Used blogs because Wendy had experienced with photo journals. We saw ways of making it much more immediate, get feedback and ask questions, in a tighter time frame. Don’t have to wait for the journal. The girls had a private blog space with a new question each day and researchers comment on the blogs. Space for photos. Asked to photos of certain things plus anything they wanted. After blogging period each girl individually interviewed, they draw their house and the technology around their house. Mappings of their social networks, how they relate to each other. And mapping the places they go to.

We explicitly asked about how they view privacy. They wanted some privacy, not because they did not want parents to know, but principle that they should have some privacy in their lives, difficult in family setting. They would talk about how they would retreat from family rooms as soon as parents came home from work in rooms or out. Houses where parents work late, that is where the teens hang out. The bedroom was a private space, even if shared with siblings. There was always the chance that parents would come in. Always an issue.

When we talked about the technology and where it was - computers usually in a shared area. They would retreat to cars for really private space in the US. Conversational privacy, evening room they might be overheard. Finding places to talk without being overheard. Cell/mobile/wireless. Tended not to use IM as computer shared. They didn’t want people to know where they were going, not that it was bad. Needed the privacy. Complexity of social networks.

Asking teens to describe the worst technology Not just truckers who are monitored when they drive. 1-877-dadseyes . There was some surprise that the teens were a bit lukewarm about people knowing where they were, including parents. It was quite rare they were somewhere that their parent’s would not know about. General location known, not always details.

There is a lot in the press about electronic monitoring, cell phone tracking. Used this to prompt them to talk about what they would really hate. When talking about the worst, they got more talkative, bigger ideas. “I think it would be a little camera that was on me all the time. “ We translated these into imaginary products, and then posted these to a separate blog and the girls gave feedback.

Family video example: (See the quote – it is fantastic!) Response: super awkward
Teen monitor: used to have baby monitor, now teen monitor. Simultaneous broadcast of tall their conversations. Response: definitely up there on the creepy scale. Only good for an extremely problematic teen, not me.

Ticker text: converts all communication to easy to read text format. Response: this got my sister grounded.

Constant connection: constant open connection to your mother. Response: worst possible thing

Ideas highlighted their main concern which was revealing the everyday content of their lives, rather than their location.
Want some control
Want to protect their parents from their realities
Need space
Parents have their own lives
Relationship of trust
Think about Life log and MyLifebits etc which are positioned to continually capture daily life. But who watches?

Categories: , ,

links to this post  

EPIC 2005 Cutting-Edge Paper #2 - artefacts for bilingual cooperative design

Anne Elliott, PARC
Physical Artifacts for Promoting Bilingual Collaborative Design

Problem: bilingual design meetings are a tiny fraction of all meetings you need in a tech design process. Interleaved with other kinds – contract negotiations, intellectual property rights, cultural meetings speaking only in English. For full disclosure, I am not Japanese, my language skills are not strong and I have to work through interpreters. One main responsibility has been communicating with Japanese technology companies.

The key things are linguistic issues, about interleave translation. That means one person (always a Japanese woman) who paraphrases what people say from English to Japanese and back, every few phrases. Not the same as simultaneous. When you need to collaborate, like brainstorming. The notion of brainstorming as jumping in, chiming in. If you can’t do that, there isn’t much to fall back on. The interpreter becomes a bottle neck. No shared language. Pressure to sit back and listen. Easy to disengage and become a passive observer. Loss of momentum. Takes 3x as long. Some people already understood in English and got it the first time. So bright and want to be heard and get worn down from things happening twice all day.

Another problem is self-censorship and loss of spontaneity. Always have time to judge.

Use of simple artifacts to help:

Personal posters
Hats and bags
Everyday objects

Helpful because they make conversation visible.

Persona posters – three examples. Brought in piles of magazines and Tokyo maps. Pretend you are the director of a movie. Showcase your technology. Wild success. It worked because by having these Japanese language magazines made it seem more normal. Gave people confidence. Unexpected side effect was the images were used as trading cards. While waiting for interpreter, holding it up, comparing with others.

Hats and bag – act out a day in the life of a person. Use hats and bags to advertise your character. The bags related to mobility fashion and how people present themselves. Hats were for ice breaking and zaniness. The picked a hat and bag and acted out the persona’s in pantomime. Hats and bags helped: acknowledge that you aren’t designing for yourself. Our collaborators are Japanese, but are not the target users. Middle aged Japanese men designing for 17-year-old girls. Help advertise that. The silly hats normalized other kinds of behavior. Not ties, wear a sweatshirt, get crazy. When your only way to interact is through an interpreter loose personal nuances. This gives more cues

Everyday objects, pull one out and tell a story . Other people can see what is in front of you. Direct qu4estions and by pass the interpreting to draw out self-censorers. Avoid the problem of loss of momentum. Make conversations visible. You need rules, make sure they are followed. Translators do the translating. Zany behavior is normal. Reform small groups of different people. The choreography is critical. Everyone has to be within reach of the artifacts. Within arms reach. Example picture – people on floor around post it notes, all can manipulate the artifacts. It took some doing to get people into this configuration. One participant would always flee to the corner, draw his own notes then come back and hijack the interpreter. I’m tall and loom over him, and herd him into the artifacts. I would not let him get away. I kept putting sticky notes on his pad and capture them on the standard framework.

Categories: , , ,

links to this post  

EPIC 2005 Cutting-Edge Paper #1

Dan Bruner, Doxus, LLC
Social relationships in the modern tribe: product selection as symbolic markers

Manufacturer of work clothes wanted to know how workers use and experience its products
Different work crews used different social practices with their products
Objectives: Better understand workers activities and activity level
Layering, modifications, unmet needs, to personify the users and workers and inform new product design.
A dozen occupations, on construction sites and ranches, four regions with different environments over four seasons. Returned to work sites when we could. This allowed for consistency and follow up with questions. And a rapport building that went beyond ethnographer to family. 141 encounters.
Expectations –
- Choice on clothing dependent on job requirements
- - Forman or company dictate or individual choice
- Had to understand group patterns of work crews and social relations. Sociality trumped function, hierarchy and individuality

- Social practices and social relationships drove product selection
- Selection less about quality and more about practices as symbolic markers of group identity
- Work wear was a marker of group identity
- Group was not cohesive on all issues, clothing was not entirely standardized, but different choices might get hazed
- Two crews – one crew chose Levis. They fit better. They weren’t tight, cost less, work better. The crotch won’t blow out.
- The crew that chose Wrangler said similar benefits. The zipper lasted longer
- Large construction site with multiple crews. Rod busters tying rebar with wire. All same work. Boots, jeans, t-shirt, work gloves, hardhat, tool belts. One pulled his gloves off, hole cut on them, hung on his pliers on his tool built. He modified all of his gloves so he could hang them. He had learned from an experienced guy 5 years ago and he taught it to his crew. 6 of 8 adopted.
- One crew wore red-hooded sweatshirts. All others gray or blue. Symbolic, not functional identity
- Clothes as tools on the job. Like power drill or sawzall. Buying a high quality tool is a symbol of knowing what you are doing. Craftsmanship and occupational identity, legitimacy were reflected in the tool they purchased. More than just something to wear. Took on a symbolic overload. A mark of identity of experience, competent and member of a certain tribe or crew.
- Purchase process is left to others, typically a wife, mom or girlfriend. They knew what the men wanted . They articulated brand, model, and size. So they replaced. We learned by watching this happen.
- Suggested new lines of ethnographic inquiry from individual, to persona, to sociality.
- Some members set the tone of the group – influencers. Could market to them.
- Because sociality was recognized towards the end, left with unanswered questions. Wanted to know more about influencers and social processes
- Social pressure to conform to tribal practice and a permitted expression of creativity, heterogeneity and individuality.

I’m Dan Bruner, I’m a practicing ethnographer and yes, my mother knows what I do. (laughter from the audience)


links to this post  

EPIC 2005: Cutting Edge Introduction

Day 2 afternoon – Cutting-Edge
Christina Wasson, Curator

Introduction to “Cutting-Edge”
What does the cutting edge mean? More than one answer. It has to do with innovation, with newness. The papers in this session showcase this kind of innovation. The domains vary widely, from the authors work practices, products, domains of applications and theoretical frameworks. I want to examine and celebrate this idea of the cutting-edge. It is a relevant ideal at a number of levels.

This conference itself is the first of its kind in our field. We can celebrate being together. It is about a lot of things, including building community. We are all doing that by talking to each other. The theme is sociality. Kind of interesting we are enacting sociality in building connections with each other.

I’m struggling with how to refer to this field. The phrase “design anthropology” but many of us are not anthropologists. Working on how to label and define ourselves. But there is something there. Something is happening. Critical mass. Coalescing. See it in the conference, in the growth of the anthro-design email list (600+ people). The Danish government is looking at creating a research institution around applied business anthropology with a focus on design and innovation issues. Faculty envisioned working in space with project driven by theoretical concerns and responsive to client needs.

Third way of looking at cutting-edge. We’re focus on the field of design. Design itself is about innovation. Develop new concepts for products and services. Looking at our field with an ethnographer’s eye. We have adopted this culture of innovation from design. Open to new ways. Experimenting with methodologies. Part of the time, struggling with the interdisciplinarity – I am trained as an anthropologist. I see design anthropologists really have a lot to offer the rest of applied anthropology. We’ve been inculcated with a disposition to try new things and we can give this to other branches of applied anthropology. We can also learn from older traditions. This applies to other fields.

This ethnographic praxis in industry field is young. I’m thinking it emerged in the early 90’s with the founding of E-Lab in 1994. We’re a young field. As a consequence, many people in the field are fairly young. I think that youth we have works for us in a lot of way… energy, momentum, excitement. At the same time there is a kind of wisdom that comes with experience. We can look at the more mature varieties of practicing anthropology and individuals further along in their career trajectories.

I recent developed a NAPA bulletin, (NAPA – applied anthropology organization). Sort of like a journal, comes out 2x year, focused on one topic like a little book. I developed the next one, working with 11 women and collected their life stories. Auto-ethnography. One of the themes that emerged across their stories, scholar practitioners. They had observed the widespread polarization between academia and industry and they had gone beyond that. They had managed to integrate both. Practitioners interested in scholarship. They had this identity. When Jackie came up with that phrase it articulated something many had felt implicitly and it proved to be a useful tool. I’d like to give that notion to our field of scholar-practitioner. Many already have that integrated, hybrid identity. There is a practical value in making that explicit. I want to relate that to the recent debate on the anthro-design list. What do they have to offer that is different? What is relationship to anthropologists and ethnography? Who can do ethnography? These are not new debates. They are important to us because they have practical consequences. Who gets hired? How to position in the marketplace? Complex debate. Want to highlight – commonly anthropologists give the answer that in the field of design, often ethnography is equated with data collection, but anthropologists do data analysis. It appears that part of the ongoing branding for design anthropologists that they are the analysis experts. Then there is a really good fit with scholar practitioner. If you are going to do analysis, you have to be aware of current theoretical trends and apply theory to solve problems.

The kinds of issues that Nina brought up early – aware of positionality, being reflexive, also relate to things we bring from our theoretical training.

Now I want to problematize the idea of scholar practitioner. Not saying everyone should take on that identity. Some already have it implicit and articulating it can be useful. I don’t think it is useful to build walls within our field – we are interdisciplinary. That is strength. I see this conference itself as an example of scholar practitioner. Scholarly aspect of giving papers at a conference. I see part as building community in a social sense, but also building intellectual community, get ideas from each other and share and move ourselves one step further along the cutting edge.

So what is the cutting edge. It implies a sense of time passing – leading, current practice. But time keeps moving on and it keeps moving at every point. Today’s cutting edge is tomorrow’s old hat. That is not to say old hat is bad. The concept of sociality itself is foundational from the past but still current and useful. So the question becomes, 10 years from now, looking back on 2005 what will they say was cutting edge that became foundational, carried forward.

The 8 quick case studies provide snapshots of areas of innovation, to spark ideas, build intellectual community. They are diverse, cross section of what the practice might look at.

4 papers then quick Q&A, then break, then another 4 papers.


links to this post  

EPIC 2005 Methods Paper #4

Using Photographic Data to Build a Large-Scale Global Comparative Visual Ethnography of Domestic Spaces: Can a limited data set capture the complexities of “sociality:
Simon Pulman-Jones, GfK Group

This paper looks at the implications of a research approach that might appear to be anti-ethnographic. Use sociality as a lens to look at this approach. A database of photos taking in 20 households in 12 countries, developed to be part of a suite of quantitative research trends offered by GfK. VSDS.

Sociality: the net we cast
We are a broad community, drawing on a wide range of practices and beliefs. Not only do we not necc. Share theoretical points of reference. Politically where we are situated – we’ve embraced the fact that we can know stuff about the world without having to find a place for that knowledge within academic discourse. Half an eye on fellow kin, half on academics, from those from other intellectual positions or none. Free of the doubly snared …

Out in the world our role is to convince those for whom and with whom we work that the world is more complex than they might assume and their work might benefit from the special work we do. Drawing on our theoretical roots for our nets. A sense of what our view of the world is all about, its sociality.

For the past several years, I a dry British sociologists, have used quotes from “Interpretations of Cultures” to convey what we bring to our clients. (Clifford Geertz quote – see proceedings). “Believing, with Max Weber, that man is an animal suspended in webs of significances he himself has spun, I take culture to be those webs and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretive one in search of meaning.” One way we relate to theory in the biz world. Using bits and pieces provisionally. We offer gifts of theory to each other, rather than theory as something suspended above practice. The practical reality in how we share theories loosely with each other in our work and which gives us room to maneuver. How we position ourselves rather than advancing discourses. Show what we know rather than test the robustness of that knowledge.

This method of visual data collection for global consumer trends market research. Visual Survey of Domestic Spaces (VSDS) part of a market consumer research products sold as a subscription service, 30,000 consumers in 12 countries. Structured for comparability across countries or consumers. Multi client ongoing study. 240 households, 18,000 photos in a relational database.

Mapping global consumer “value” profile
Mapped to consumer trends through value profiles established through asking people to prioritize 60+ value statements, how they associate those with … Mapped to this map (visual), which contrasts people with power and fun with tradition. Allows global product and services managers a high level scan of their terrains. Value segments. Year on year value segments are trended. Recent increase in strivers in the emerging economies of China and India. Altruists and creatives have trended down.

Collapsing sociality into individuals with the complexities of local sociality rendered into the value profiles. (Interesting visual representation).

Ethnographic component was conceived as a complement to the quantitative study back into the particularity of local contexts. A visual data set could be a double-edged sword. Instead of revealing complexity of sociality. The individual might vanish. Prescriptive individualism displaces the individuality of the person. On the face of this, it seems apt description of the photographic study. Define individuals by an inventory of their choices. What are the benefits and pitfalls?

VSDS covers 9 functional areas. The original impetus came from a client problem of understanding style preference. Certain section of its customer like the company, the brand, the stores, but did not buy anything as nothing was of their “style.” Problem to address. This company did a lot of its strategic decision making through GfKs quantitative research tools, our initial thought that we should do some ethnographic research for them was linked up to the Roper reports worldwide. Need to do the research in many countries. To do a conventional study would have been prohibitively expensive. So chose lowest common denominator of the visual style. Then we looked at the practical problems of what to photograph – the functional areas of homes. Images coded for objects, functions and other attributes then navigable in the database.

The range of perceived benefits of this addition were instructive. Provided the ability to illustrate the quantitative trend analysis. Home as haven. Photos available to demonstrate by country or consumer profile lending rhetorical weight to the quantitative data. Not what the ethnographers intended – the ability to explore new analytic possibilities and for subverting conventional assumptions. Fetishist attraction to working with relational database for the sociologists.

“the photograph in anthropology is as much a means of discovering information as it is of presenting that which has been found… a locus for dialoging rather than as a source of information in itself. The value of the image in ethnographic fieldwork is here precisely in its indeterminacy insofar as that allows processes of interpretation.. to go on around it (Glenn Bowman)

Household types – segmentation model looking at variations of how interiors are disposed. Based on household time. Families with children, empty nesters, etc. When we interrogated the segmentation model against our data, a household that ought to be different, we saw the main variations in the data set had more to do with socio economic status, cultural factors, and country. Household composition was not a strong differentiating factor apart from the evidence of children. Made clear – had we been able to talk with members of households about the arrangement of their homes, we might have found that how households are arrangements … recognition of fundamental aspects of sociality and material culture that might not have been seen in the personal narratives of participants. (missed stuff.) Narratives may overlook the physical characteristics.

It can assist in pulling individuals out of their context to look at a global set of trends. Rather than reduce things to possessions, or force attribution of material contents as consumer inventory. Does not provide a holistic view, but there may be value to that. Recognize the limitation of any one data collection method. Be freed of tyranny of ethnographic datasets. Beyond mere reportage. Data sets in rapid commercial ethnographies are rarely as holistic as we wish them to be.

It was interesting to notice how the data was received. We did a rapid foray through the data to pull out stories to talk about clients and interest them in this new product. (Tells a story about a complex in St. Petersburg with a food and beverage client. Looking at communal spaces, neglected and unused, and showing up in personal spaces.) Story was easy to put together from data. The quantitative people would not use them with clients. The ethnographers were called in to tell the stories. Simple and compelling, but not adopted by the team. In combination for constructive of narrative become complex puzzle which show the value of the contribution of the ethnographer. Gell quote about art and magical. Custodians of sociality enshrined in the data.

Categories: ,

links to this post  

EPIC 2005: Methods Paper 3

Configuring Living Labs for a “Thick” Understanding of Innovation
(Joe Pierson, Bram Lievens & Pieter Ballon)

Theoretical background in sociology, media and communications studies
Perspective: Social shaping of Technology (SST) – an approach that investigates the way economic and social factors have shaped the rate of innovation, the form of technology and the outcomes of technological change for different groups in society

Focus: user research on ICT

Stems from challenge of setting up a large-scale environment where people could be examined in their own settings. Living Labs.

e-Paper Project
Based on combination of e-link technology and handheld. Involves business and academic partners. Belgacom, Phillips, Financial newspaper and two advertising. Two academic partners.

How can a living lab setting based on ethnographic principles be used to understand users in their settings? Test concepts, technologies and services in early stages of innovation – pre development phase. Aimed at facilitating and validating design, vs. test beds and market pilots. Characteristics are the use of natural user environment, enabling ethnographic research and multiple methods.

Phases of the living lab cycle.

- hovering phase – suck up as much of the context as we can. Assemble background info for next steps. Each project has a scope that needs investigation. This project was on mobile consumption of news. How people are moving, which kinds of news they consume, etc.
- technological and socio-economic scanning – what is possible, what is emerging with technology and socio-economic – how people are using. I.E. RSS feeds as a new method that can be incorporated as a feedstream in test device.
- Picking – Purposeful sampling, maximum variation (hierarchical values) – done carefully. Phenomenal variation, theoretical variation. Clarity around who and what. This is charted out to look at cross issues. Helps for recruitment.
- Fingerprinting – identifying the test users. Initial measurement, in depth profile of users. Serves as reference point. Fixed components like demographic and ICT adoption and usage issues, and variable components like reading profile of newspapers and magazines.
- Simultaneous vs. phased introduction choice
- Spotting and digging in user behavior. Product is embedded in real lives of test users. Direct analysis facilitated by technological monitoring of product, ethnographic methods (observation, etc0 and indirect analysis – focus group interviews, in depth interviews, self-reporting techniques.

- everything comes together, feedback to developers and designers, insights in existing and new contexts
- Ex post measurements (identifying changes, survey methods)
- Technological recommendations – user profiles and user patterns, iterative process

Value of this approach for industry
ON two levels.

First, the level of an individual. For individual company for structuring the front end. The multi-methodological approach allows a triangulation of methods for specific outcomes. Can look at sociality – unpredictable uses, work home and on the road.

For a cluster of companies it is useful in pre-competitive setting. Avoid systemic failures and support systemic innovation.

Conclusion: alternative way of studying. Methodological framework (vs. specific guidelines). Narrow down to methods based on early framework. User centered to people centered. Social framing uncontrollable dynamics in every day life. Mutual shaping innovation processes – a bridge. Technology influences social and visa versa. Hope to bridge between sociological studies and technological design.

Categories: ,

links to this post  

EPIC 2005 Methods Paper - The presence of the gift in service encounters

The Bakers Dozen: the Presence of the Gift in Service Encounters
Brinda Dalal Pat Swenton-Wall

Note: I found this presentation very useful to describe things I do in my practice. Lovely!

Our roles in businesses have changed as companies have gone from selling products to selling solutions. Take a step back and read our changing practices. Introduction to the spirit of the gift in business, case studies and representations, and conclusion.

We’ve been experimenting with how to infuse ethnographic worldviews into design in a global organization. Paradox in business. Our interactions with customers are fleeting. Just a week or month. Hardly conducive to building real trust for deals that involve thousands of dollars. IN that short time, get to know who they are, families, struggles, dreams and how their work gets done despite odds and little fanfare. What is it that evokes the sense of durability in these transitory interactions. The Gift: Form and Reason for Exchange in Primitive Societies. How people can fulfill their self-interest without destroying each other. Looked at ceremonial exchanges. How people exchanged durable goods such as blankets and shells, non-durable goods, how status was perceptually proscribed in the goods and how they were exchanges. Mouse made the historical argument for morality. Things aren’t wholly categorized in sales. People connect to each other by learning how to create mutual interest by the giving of gift. How to give mutual satisfaction: reciprocity, giving back. What power resides in the object given that asks the recipient to pay it back. How this happens without going to war.

Latent sociality provided a backdrop to the exchange of goods – total services. 55 years later and the word services is still around Wikipedia definition of services sector – serve the customer rather than transforming material goods. Explore how the concept of the gift emerges in our business setting and reframe our methods. For sales, the building of customer relationships are primary. As researchers we are trusted because we aren’t selling anything. Looking at customer’s real problems.

Experimenting with textual and visual representations of customer’s problems. It is not the in detail, but the creation and use of those representations enable conversation which take incremental steps of building trust between use. It takes a long time for emerging technologies to be built and integrated. Graphical representations are a series of interim gifts to our customers. Objects of mutual consumption. Not actually paid for by client, but given with expectation, reciprocity, in that they will be dissected and discussed by clients in their orgs. We acknowledge the enormous value of time spent with us in the wider significance of their work. Customer does not have to wait for the solution to be built to see the pay off.

Our role in service encounters –0 transforms the scope and definition of our work. Unlike product dev cycles, service engagements are shorter. This requires accelerated/abbreviated time frames, closer to sales cycle (rather than design), integration of existing tech and services. Have to negotiate role with consultants and their processes.

Representations – we have over the years developed tools and methods to visually display findings as the resonate in ways that textual reports do not. Illustrations, sketches, videos, stills, notes, to characterize some aspect of site, design. Includes a graphics tool kit with a variety of icons to show everyday items. The graphics toolkit emphasizes people and their work (Blue guys). Made available company wide and used by a variety of teams. Used in new and interesting ways (even though we would not use them.) Place people more prominently in discussions of technology. Stimulate conversations that help correct our misunderstanding.

Digital Library Research Project – focus on co-developing a web based image search and retrieval. Multidisciplinary team composed of researchers, had time, a year. The tech design was based upon ongoing interaction with library staff and faculty. First representation of interaction between three departments, all charged with taking non-digital images and digitizing, cataloging and linking into system. Several transitions and handoffs identified through interviews. Using enlarged version of this representation, used this as a conversation starter. First time overall process had been described. The discussion helped identify areas of breakdown and problems, captured in a second version. Initial representation added depth to the conversation. Helped make next step decision.

Discussions around representations allows different conversation, visualize intersections.

Second example focusing on work of an individual – sorting/selecting/presenting slides. The new system would have to support this. Looks pretty straightforward. Took representation to person and he made corrections. Different projects suggested variations not seen in the first representation. We had confused them. Needed more interactions to fully understand. Power of representation to enable a rich two-way exchange with reciprocity.

Third case, but my hands are getting sore. So just listening. And looking at their image. Multiple perspectives and successive views. Really interesting stuff.

Representations help put people back into the forefront in a techno centric world. We toggle between our partial connections, where issues and view shift from foreground, background depending on our assignee role.

Two parts of being human: self reliant and dependent. Modern markets deny this. GET QUOTE OUT OF PDF.

Categories: ,

links to this post  

Methodology Paper #1: Fieldwork and Ethnography in Design

Dave Randall, Richard Harper, Mark Rouncefield
Fieldwork and Ethnography in Design: the state of play from the CSCW perspectives

I’m going to slow down a bit. We’ve been rushing. Rushing in the sense that maybe people want to bind us, to be alike, into a certain sort of thing called EPIC. A view about ethnography that is agreed. What we find in practice is that some claim to have a vision that equates with their vision of what ethnography. Through discussion and opening up possibility, it ends up being their view. The problem for me, David and Mark – in our fate and our experience, we’re confronted with a world where people disagree with us, where other people do ethnography in other ways and they are right to do so. For me, the problem for us is that, as Nina said, the term ethnography is a boundary object used by different people to do different work. Going to sketch some different ways that people do this

Anthropologists have no monopoly on ethnography
As you look back over the last 20 years, ethnographic practice has become a bundle of different things, some nascent. CSCW has, at worst, a kind of disciplinary … at times we doubt it. From that position it might contribute a kind of choose, possibility of arguments that can infuse what we talk about.
We want to anchor ourselves. This is where I come from. This is how I think about things and the merits of what I do. And those merits can’t be measured by ethnography in other practices and disciplines. We have to grow up and deal with the fact that if corporate life has funded ethnography, the it has become a hybrid. Certain parts of the hybrid can’t effectively understand other parts.

Quick History of CSCW – 25 years old. I must stand here as if I can say something about it. Term coined many years ago on a whim. The idea that you should move away from the cognitive, away from the idea that humanity can be conceived as a computer. Marxists who turned coat on their old disciplines to look at how work occurs naturally. Fieldwork accrued the name ethnography. Seems to offer naturalist description, scenic offering. It came to be ethnomethodlogy. We thought it was the way forward. A view. A methodology to design better work systems.

So CSCW today. Everyone uses the word ethnography. Become many sorts of things. Who owns the term. Sometimes it is a method to correct other methods. Ethnography instead of focus groups. Sometimes it is a critical tradition, as in anthropology.

Current texts we could refer to from different disciplines. Vicente, example of the need to ground ourselves and dispense with some of our vanity. Vincent says do ethnography to understand contest, local skills, artifacts and ecologies. You need to build and apply theory. Sound familiar?
In human factors, not where we expected.

What about our own experience. How do we managed to assemble a sense of place with people with disparate views, people thinking that they are the only people talking about those things.

What about our own experience. Is there any body politic we can measure, learn from? Seminal study in CSCW with air traffic control. The study fit the ethnomethodology of place, fit the tools, worked because it was a clear design problem. Canonical in part because it was a perfect fit. Specifiable domain, sets of skills, ways of measuring benefits, etc.

Research on change in banking. Comparative with different sets of problems, process, places. Some of the places were virtual. Part of the problem was to convey understanding across different situation.; Was it a success apparently.

Inside the “smart house.” What might it feel like. Here smart homes, interested in the future of technologies in the home. Smart homes a dish everyone is working on. IN this project, the client did not want us to have conclusions, but lines of possibilities. Lines of insight. You can mean a lot to build a smart home, a lot from living in a home.

Lots of different topics
Lots of different data gathering
Lots of analytical tools and implications

If I claim a particular view, I can’t justify it in my own research experience. What do we learn from that complexity. When I started out I thought ethnomethodology was the only answer. But they are not uniquely sufficient. Issues of method are largely serendipitous, capricious. I learned there is not always a clear relationship between fieldwork and what design might be.

How do we move forward?
Although George Marcus writes as if anthro is everyone’s concern, he writes about the concerns of anthropology. IN his book, Through Thick and Thin, fieldwork is driven by a political analytic foci. Who defines them. If EPIC is exploring this interdisciplinary space, the problem might be you cant’ define fieldwork because you can’t define this. Maybe we can claim some analytic foci

He’s lost me now.

The foci are related to design, but design is a many-headed animal. Sometimes you have something in mind, something not. Host of different qu4estions about ethnography in design. Where you fit in the larger scheme of things. It is a broad, encompassing thing.

Is it anything goes? No. While what you do might seem vague, there are ways forward. There are a set of tropes and analytical themes that can be leveraged.

Follow the plan – investigate the documentation, the procedures, the body politic of CSCW. Appreciate the information life cycle, its birth, life and death.
Follow the job/trad/biz relationships
Follow the skills being deployed
Follow the knowledges
The use
The ecology
The troubles – false, starts, distractions
With these, compare settings skills, processes, and places.
Compare the present and the future
Otherness elsewhere in time and place.
Use those sorts of tropes, analytical themes to create a sensibility. Combine a design sensibility with an ethnographic imagination. That might not make for good anthropology or ethnography, but it does for good ethnography in design. Can’t compare it with good anthropology. Good anthropology design in CSCW don’t apply in anthropology.

When you bring people together from different perspectives it is important to know where people come from.. IN ethnographic practice there are a number of perspectives and sensibilities. Need to frankly discern what they are to make coming to conferences like this worthwhile.


links to this post  

EPIC 2005: Methods Papers - Introduction

METHODS PAPERS - Introduction
Nina Wakeford
Live blogging disclaimers apply - I did not catch it all. Not by a long shot.

In the advisory board we started talking about sociality as a trend in ethnographic work. My initial methods question: how do particular methods render sociality visible or invisible? Whose sociality is made visible or left out? Do we include the sociality of participants to the exclusion of our own? DO our social networks, the form we enact sociality at meetings and hiring transform our methodological processes? Should we talk or theorize about this? There are possibilities of reshaping ethnographic work in industry context.

Several provocations… several incantations … about these issues of methods. This is not to show pictures of male theorists. I want to organize my thoughts about what we do to survive as ethnographers in industry context. And what fetishes we might want to keep or discard.

Craft, …. Missed title

Even in discussing techniques, a discussion of method needs to go beyond war stories about clients. It’s impossible to consider methods without looking at their historical basis. It’s hard to hold on to this knowledge in the course of doing typical EPIC project. Danger of isolating method and theory. We’re comfortable with a two-paragraph summary in a pitch, cut and paste. But we might feel less comfortable with a two-paragraph theory pitch. This bifurcation theory/method is a trap. Look at this as Edmund Leach might have done, seek out the interesting bit. The liminal zone in the middle.

Which brings me to bunny rabbits. Culturally constructed as neither completely wild or tame. The subject of taboo, humor and extermination. Live in liminal. Politicized, transition, reinforce social structure. What kind of liminal between theory and method do we want.

Another thing that crosscuts this liminal. More likely to happen in the corridor talk. It has an impact in our methodologies. The construction of the categories of us and them separating academics and industry practitioners. Reverberates through our practices and techniques, let alone presentation files. This operates in two ways. How we divide us and them, the Kool Aid continuum. Progression is assessed anecdotally about the amount of corporate Kool Aid a person had drunk. How much … profoundly disturbed how we propagate. More subtle. And it operates with a double standard as it is not invoked by academic corporate Kook aid, especially since more public institution run by former corporate.

Second idea – luxury. Academics have the luxury of time. Industry researchers have luxury of expense accounts. This makes new classifications to survey and impacts our methods. Implies more resource-based research in companies, more freedom in academia to choose methods. Without denying the differences between institutions, our identities are hybrid. Most enter from a graduate education. Most academic work in institutions underpinned by corporate sponsorship. We’re all bunny rabbits now.

Methods and Anecdotes
I want to make it clear that epistemology methodology should be discussed alongside methods. Recalling Sandra Harding, what can be know, who can know, what counts as legitimate knowledge. Theory analysis of how … methods of technique.

Researchers are ryi9ng to do exploratory on work X. Present plan to clients/internal sponsors. One senior person says this doesn’t seem interesting, my wife/child doesn’t do that. Others chime in. End of research plan. What happens is that this is not so much about method but epistemology. What test/beliefs must past to be legitimized. Subject truths can count as knowledge in these situation. Subjective truths + financial power.

Subjective truths can be our life raft. Methods are ways of surviving experience models. Corporates that think data is output from experience modeling. Methods are not just with or for others. They are resources we can draw upon. One of the reasons to discussion methodologies in this liminal zone – engage different ways to create and talk about legitimate knowledge, even if it is subversive or smuggled knowledge.

The work ethnography is a boundary object. It allows otherwise separate communities to temporary talk the same language. Mobilize the work to talk to those who don’t understand the concept of local culture beyond asking questions of a target sample.

Tradition Ethnography = traditional family values. No longer

The value of God Tricks
To expand from method to methodology, we also need to discuss our own locatedness in forums such as this. What are the consequences of our locatedness that defines our legitimate knowledge. Move discussions from workshops into papers and industry practice. Some of the more difficult encounters between EPIC folks and academic. War stories of public shaming of EPIC folks at academic conferences. Donna Haroway – the god trick. False objectivity. As the Silicon Valley’s culture study showed that situated mundaneness translated into engineering product. Ethnography tends to be treated as a method and not a methodology by our sponsors. The value attached to the knowledges we produce tend to stick to whole stories rather than fragmented narratives. Can we talk about disputed knowledges. Kris Cohen suggested that more radical conceptions of subject – extend through the full range of discussions right back to the techniques we use.


links to this post  

EPIC 2005 - Day 2

The proceedings for the conference can be found on the website, but I'm still flailing along taking notes as people read, rapid fire, their papers. Call me a fool... it is a good way to pay attention for me.

Jeanette Blomberg
The Coming of Age of Hybrids: Notes on Ethnographic Praxis

Feeling a serious identity crisis at this conference. Came to find our crowd, but there are so many different parts of my life represented in people here and they don’t fit together nicely. The trends and paths are represented, from early days at Xerox Parc to work at Sapient focused on building on the E-Lab experience, to involvement in the participatory design community, bringing workers into design, my friends in organizational or business anthropology are here as well. As we look at the EPIC conference, it is like that old story of the elephant when they grab on to a part to define what is an ethnographic praxis.

In the workshop many people talked about how different the other people were in groups, hard to connect with all the ideas and issues. SO a little personal identity crisis as I prepared my remarks. What audience am I speaking to?

Assignment was to put together some comments on the workshops (yesterday). Looked through the workshops, but didn’t attend any of them, but I read through the descriptions. It seemed that one way one might talk about these as a collection is to use the notion of hybrids. The descriptions were all asking relational question. Between the social and material, online and offline, global agendas and local problems, our spiritual selves and our secular workplaces. A way to describe the design and research on the identities we all have.

I went back and looked at the literature of hybrids. Critical studies – not me, not the field I work in. Donna Haraway “In so far as we know ourselves in both forma discourse and in daily practice we find ourselves to be cyborgs, hybrids, mosaics, chimeras.”

What was interesting was the knowing that comes from the examination of daily practice. How dualisms loose their explanatory power in the complexity of everyday practice. These dualisms were made clear to me 20 years ago. My project was to understand Trillian, which was going to change interface design practices. My job was to help with the iteration of the design. The taken for granted categories of technical and social permeated the work. 2 different design groups took up trillian in different ways. The interface designers were writing machine executable code with Trillian in one group, not just to design. It could not be designed or known outside of the use. It became its materiality through its use. I did not have the language of hybrids. Our understandings arose from the interchange between material goods, human labor and social relations.

Defining the impact of physical spaces on social interactions workshop, how spaces shape the possibility of interaction. The flipside of the question, how do social interactions define the physical spaces we move through. Example: project rooms. Physical spaces defined by the practices of their participants. It wasn’t the physical spaces of the project room but the practices of people from their E-Lab experiences defined the space. (pictures of post its). There was another workshop on the sociality of objects. Material objects are conceptualized as full-fledged actors.

Another dualism: Virtual – Real: The meeting. The workshop took up the question on how might we design our ethnographic work that can move between the physical offline and virtual online. How do we conceptualize the differences between the spaces. The digital receptionist, the pediatrician examining a patient through an online connection. But there are more mundane examples. One I live with daily, and part of a research project. On any given day what you might find is a group of folks who might convene a meeting. Ubiquitous and organizing principle of the work. You might find people in Manhattan dialed in with people on trains, in home, in other countries, supported with NetMeeting, email, documents emailed out. How do we define the physical space. The pure categories of online and offline in even a mundane situation.

Local – Global dualism. The global reach of Western capitalism. Business ethnography from the bottom of the pyramid. Examine the importance of calling attention to the everyday practices of those caught up in the web of relationships. Powerful companies impact human labor, but often rendered invisible in value calculators. It calls, one of the real values, real focus on the context in which humans and capital come together.

Finally, the relationship between the Spiritual and Secular. The topic concerns how the spiritual constructs ourselves in the workplace and why a religion is such a taboo of ethnographic research. In our early learning we learned that “primitive” cultures did not separate the religious from the secular. We have learned this is not “primitive” but the secular still dominate our frameworks. To advocate a hybrid is not without risks. There are management books that talk about spirituality guiding the workplace and books talk about its benefits. Living in Silicon Valley, in our papers, the Dali Lama is frequently sited at powerful digerati gatherings.

The point is that hybridity must be examined and understood in the particular context. (See also her written remarks in proceedings) Hybridity can apply to our subjects and ourselves.

What ethnographic practice points to the every day challenge of the concreteness of all these dualisms. Celebrate our commitment to the ephemeral, ordinarily situated ness of our everyday practice.

Brief Workshop Summaries:
Doing Business with the Bottom of the Pyramid – the main theme was how do you synthesize social responsibility with doing business with the bottom of the pyramid. Devote expenses of understanding these group, there has to be value. How do you convince companies to see the value and appeal to social responsibility. There was a cement company that helped BOP people constructing home. They had to change their way of doing business. They gave money, advice, and helped people build home and the company made profit. Radical change of doing business. Another interesting idea was suppose there was social responsibility welded to profit.

Studying Distributed Sociality: online and offline research – Lively discussion, we could not close them up and the evaluations, it was successful. We gave some background, then had people distributed in three tables and asked them to get to know each other. We had provocative slogans on the wall (How do you get informed consent from an avatar) then had small and whole group discussions. What is happening to participant observation in cyberspace. There were some who requested take aways, references, including on basic nuts and bolts ethnographic work. Send email to get that from Brigitte

Joe Fish – Holy Hanging Out – You have to justify yourself about why you should talk about religion. 2 billion Christians, (he rattled out more figures). From a corporate point of view that is a market, works in ways we are not used to as markets. The boundaries between cultural and religious practices are pretty thin. Need to understand the religious side. We realized we need tools and techniques to study and communicate to our colleagues. Have public conversations about this. Religion transcends any particular god, about culture, an organizing principle for doing business – deep talk. It’s a huge business opportunity. To miss out on this is an enormous problem. Either you can understand and do something with. If not you may become irrelevant because of the key role this plays in the rest of the world

Collaboration Across Distances: The focus was to take up the question of collaboration – how can we do better, challenges, and to push at what does it mean and how should we reflect. The core revolved around a design game using video clips, in groups, review clips and quickly try to make sense of the work and pulling out themes in small groups. Then we had to choose from a map base that spoke to our view of what we had seen and then populate with the things we created. Then we broke out to say, if we start from a picture of executed research, backing up from that, how do we get there ? Challenges and problems of framing ethnographic research.

Defining the Impact of Physical Spaces and Social Interactions – Rick talked about the notion of being here and conversation. I felt like we were grounded in thinking about materiality and social interaction. The diversity of the people in the group, they place they come from, their locatedness, how we were able to think together, collaborative, broke into groups, talked about designing airplane cabins and kitchen spaces. Took away the strength of the thinking, the willingness to respond to an offered framework.

The Sociality of Field work:
We had a conversation, which spiraled, a little out of control we started with this issue of looking at impersonal connections. When we have heard people cry when we interview, starting up listening and ending up counseling, how do you explain to people in New Guinea about white people going to the moon, when truth is a different construct in working in other cultures, and recruiting people by dressing up as a hedgehog.

Object Sociality: Rethink how objects, how we should conceptualize objects as a part, and in terms of being social with them We looked at contemporary theories, the social life of things, Marxist traditions. We shared personal stories about objects. Rich and interesting personal objects starting from glasses to scarves, watches, memorabilia, bookcases. Although different, they all shared the thickness and richness, and different layers of meaning we had with the objects. Issues of timelines. Things change over time.

Working the Process: We focused on relationship between work process and sociality in the context of the changing workplace and global organizations. We presented some of our own work, had posters on the wall to spark discussion, and broke out into three groups to focus on discussion questions. WE found ourselves unpacking the concept of work process. What does it mean in various contexts. It always gets recontextualized and your methods need to be readjusted. Issues around crossing boundaries, many stakeholders. We came up with conclusion that the study of work process needs to be transdisciplinary and there need to be tropes or languages that cross discipline to share work and results.

Framing Ethnographic Praxis of innovation; co-developed ideas about what is the innovation space. We came up with a host of issues about our theories of innovation, the dialogic nature of innovation, who and how do people participate, what forms of engagement do we have as anthropologists, what are the context of creativity. Created a visual model to map out the space of looking at the production of innovation as a social process.


links to this post  

EPIC 2005: Collaboration Across Disciplines Workshop

Epic Afternoon session - workshop. This is not totally comprehensible, as I've not "processed" the notes. But you know how it is. If I don't put this up, it will never get up!

Background for Workshop:
Collaboration across different types of boundaries
What are we representing, learning about
What is it that we are doing when we are using ethnographic praxis
What about those who don’t care about process, just outcome
Distance, where the boundaries my lie
Idea – by the end of this, design game, hands on way of thinking, some of it a how to, tools, learning from each other; to continue to problematize and think deeply about where this issues are.

Short 5 second intros
Design game that gets at the heart of once we have material/data, the stuff we are working with, what happens when you try to make sense of that with other people. Push at the limits of how we are doing that.
You are already in the project, working with material
Then rewind to how you frame it up front. In the mundane sense, how do we set expectations as ethnographic practitioners with our partners and clients. Output, expectations and goals. There’s a dual mode approach to ethnographic work. A kind of product design in some sense. Organizational intervention for others. How does this look similar/difference from change management.
If time at the end, question: Does ethnography introduce particular challenges to collaboration If so, what and why? Is there anything unique about collaboration and ethnography?

Introductions: I did not catch all these, nor is the spelling checked.)
5 seconds, 6 words (Name, org, 2 words or less description/characterization of your collaborations.
Melissa Cefkin, IBM Research, pregnanat w/ possiblity
Jens Petersen, ITUniversity, coordination
Eliz Churchill, PARC, curiously challenging
Jack Whalen, PARCX, ethnographic consulting
George Simons, unnamed new company, can’t define collaborations
Whitly burret, own practice, U Toronto, Anthropologist, unmasking and demystifing
Natelie Hanson, SAP, varied and challenging
Carrie Rondo, MI State U, challenging grounding
Susan Wilheit, Yahoo, very challenging cross disc
Jill Laurens, Pitneybowse, chall fun
U Denmark, surprisingly complex yet somehow simple
Brook, inspirational infuriating
Barb Stukey, National Council on Ageing, Limited vision
Alexandra Lucard, Pettigrew, need to education
Dan Brunner, Dosis, enlightening distillation
Danyle Fisher, MSFT, quantitative means thick
Gina Grumke, Laird Medical, constant translation
J Grudin MSFT Research pattern seeking
John, valuable but frustrating
Bill Kagen, independent, opportunitic multi layered
MSF hardware, omplementary and energizing
Annetg Adler, Agilent Labs, patterns and lonely
Joke IT University of Copenhagen, productively risk reciprocal
Mizune, MSFT real time collaboration, oppressive now hopeful
Pier Weeks, --- , really nice

Introduction & Background of Design Game:

Collaborative research and design project with MSFT solutions. Exploring the domain of maintenance work, how mobile can work there. Engage developers in the use practice, participatory design, to involve the users in the design of their future products. Three step cycle with rapid field work, collaborative workshop, improvised video scenarios to further elaborate and document the original practice how it could transform.

Today focusing on collaborative workshop aspect.

Design games & collaboration
A collaborative exploration of field material
Facilitates and structures dialog between different stakeholders
Turn taking (everyone must have a say)
Representation & re-creation, meaning making, sense-making,
Grand narratives, fragments to re-order – cut up fragments of field work, cut up to get away from the idea that we are proxies for the field work, that we could tell the grand narrative but instead we all create the shared meeting. In this case we are not the real stakeholders, so a bit of an experiment.

Mobility in Maintenance

We played the game

Elizabeth and Jack tell a story of their project

The location is far away. That creates its own set of issues. The problem, a company, software development. Commercial systems. A bank or oil company needs a system, or merging systems. Like IBM services, going around, figuring out how to build and integrate software systems for their customers. Large organization, large SI projects, thousands of man months. 40-50,000 system engineers, not including subcontracting programmers. They wanted PARC to help in the ways to innovate the way engineer works. Processes are 40 years old, set, hard to change. “Normal trouble.” What is the possibility of “change the way they work,” where there is impact. Something ethnographically based. WE originally thought socio-technical as we have donein the past with software. Maybe technology to support innovation in procress. It is the way the design and support the technology or not. How they organize the way they work. The difference between product and process ethnography. Typical change management problem, but approached with field workers going out and looking how engineers actually work. Not software or business change, but to do that at a great distance, with no competency to do that kind of ethnogrpahic work. Want us to teach them. They also have a laboratory. They want us to teach them how we do what we do at PARC with engineers, the subjects themselves, learn how to develop this competency as well. Change the tire while the car was moving. Big problems, millions of dollars. Bit of a challenge.

They have 6 system engineers and 5 from lab and 6 from PARC. 17-18 headcount on a scale never before attempted, done at a great distance with two locations and we don’t share a common language. That in itself would be difficult enough. What are we trying to do and who in that organization believes we should be doing what. They describe it as creative pragmatism. How do you organize the people. Manage the coordination and organization of ourselves and them in a political environment (never known) at this scale ever at PARC. Three year time table. Just gone thorugh first year. Elizabeth joined after we set this up. General goal to improve productivity, but no particular benchmark (x%). Just have some impact.

As part of that process having one day workshops with games rather like these. To try and get around the issues of who should be there, who should be listening. Get people on board to taking the change through the organization. Now would be very interested in sharing stories, if you have used these techniquesl, how would you take this kind of workshop into your field work. How to use these kinds of activities to break down local/cultural barriers. Reflect on today’s experience and this kind of project. Share some stories. What would you do? Or other ideas of other kinds of workshops. Could also send out an email later with some ideas and resources. Want to have reflection in this workshop. Keep the conversation going.


Biz to technology translation
US to India translation
Field up to upper management
This sort of game doesn’t apply

10-15 years ago there was a guy at ATT/Bell labs, then to Colorado Qwest, the MSFT research. Restricted to paper and pencil design user interface, very effective.

We were studying a worldwide online community of senior citizens. One of the things we did, interesting doing field work online. We posted our research questions on a bulletin board. That became a whole forum of discussion. You have to disclose yourself, but also an interesting way of soliciting worldwide. Created collocated space – not the original intention. We were trying to explain. Became very fascinating.

Distributed group – hard to get the upper level to give you time to give you the nuance. Works when you have someone at the senior level who becomes the torch barrier. They help you translate to sr vp speak.

What about working with India. Is that as strong no. We have two guys that went over there. We meet once or twice a week on phone. The IT guys were horrified by their experience and could not talk about it, no data. They were supposed to build the bridge and unable to make the connection. So the idea of ethnographer as cultural translators. Is it even possible. Do activities like this bring people together.

Representations of data and the key informants/decision makers in the room at the same time.

Get lots of information, but the people who can make the changes aren’t here. How do you get the managers to wear the mini mouse ears.

End of breakout groups.
Cultural basis of doing work like this, engaging, knowing it is a game, might not work in all culture/subcultures.
Trying to understand more about expectations of people walking in to play the game and how the data/outcome will be used.
Intentionally designed to bring different levels of knowledge into a level playing field. Not always possible. Senior level might not be willing to privilege lower levels.
We believe this kind of gaming had some good properties to gain awareness of why interdisciplinary groups can gain. But requires knowledge of what they are going to get out of it, how info used, how fits within org culture. A day in the life of field would be valuable, but this would be a good first step of seeing why multidisciplinary groups can work together. This is worth solving.
Talked about the value of getting people strategically immersed in the data, challenge assumptions. We take for granted that we are exposed to users every day.
Wondered what this would be like if you had marketing, product managers, biz dev. We’re all basically kool aid drinkers. Would you be able to get to this point with diverse groups and a couple of vice presidents.
The physical, tangible aspect of the model. Limitation – ability to walk up to this and get it without a 5 minute oration. It does not stand by itself. The cards – 5 cards, we did not place the most significant on the front. The ability to look and have it represent something explainable. Like contextual inquiry, people walk the wall and look at physical model and get it.
Do we make distinctions between the work we do to come to conclusions and how we share those with others. Is it just for us. Would we want to transform it. Often felt pressed that the stuff I start to talk about, not in the form for others’ consumption.
It appeared that this required a lot of pre-processing. Would you use it to generate new ideas, or preprocess and set up to gain buy in rather than generate new things; build relationships.
Difficult to get the time you need to do games like this. At Intel games help mediate the relationships. Engineers and marketers get jealous of researchers. Like they went on vacation. Use games to develop a working rapport with colleagues.
Had the same questions on managing up with all this rich data. They won’t take an hour to look at video clips
The challenge of doing this with distributed groups.
The overhead of using video. How to introduce the power of these approaches without the overhead of getting and editing videos, selecting the clips. Which piece of gold to show them.
The video clips were useful as provocative starting points. You had to think and respond quickly. We can’t use much video. We’ve taken photos as stand ins. Often we present PPT slides, which are summaries of data, including transcripts of audio recordings to illustrate. You can use various kinds of data, unsure of where it will lead; as a provocative sense. Don’t try and tell them literally what you’ve found.
It would have been quite interesting to ask those maintenance people, “how would you change the way the factor works and the way you do your job.” Not just mobile widgets. Would have seen plenty in that video
What happens next with the above questions rather than what kind of mobile widget can you make. Difficult thing about process.
Fun game. Video clips are sort of a mystery. What we had to guess was the context of these clips. How they are connected. Context are important issues. Our job to make it clear. It was held from the participants. Will that defeat our purpose of making context clear. We are an artificial audience as this is not our story. If working with their own stories, they step in and correct. Here it is quite artificial as we don’t have the real workers as truth tellers.


links to this post  

Monday, November 14, 2005

Warren Easton in Exile

Warren Easton in Exile: "The temporary home of Warren Easton Fundamental High School in NOLA"

This site brings together blogs and updates for the Warren Easton HS "community" - students, teachers, families, friends. It keeps the connection going while they are spread out and far from each other after hurricane Katrina. It is also a great community indicator!

Ed Vielmetti pointed me to this terrific site. It is exactly what I have been suggesting to some folks in Biloxi - for schools, churches, etc. Great site! Thanks, Ed, for the pointer.

Categories: , ,

links to this post  

Internet Matchmaking: Those Offering Help and Those Needing It

The New York Times ran a story today on great folks like Grace Davis who just pitched right in after Katrina. Internet Matchmaking: Those Offering Help and Those Needing It - New York Times
"Scores of Americans like Mr. Wales had pioneered a new kind of philanthropy in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Spurred to do something more personal than writing a check, they turned to the Internet, which linked people who wanted to help with those who needed it, often with no relief agency acting as a middleman. Established sites like Craigslist and Yahoo Groups took on new purposes, while charity neophytes created dozens of new sites.

'Each major news event generates new phenomena online, and the new thing with Katrina was the spontaneous and distributed offers of personal charity,' said Lee Rainie, project director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project in Washington. 'This is a new age of directed, individualized giving that is not dependent on existing agencies, and it has already become embedded in online culture.'"
It is nice to see this kind of attention to the self organized work of so many folks. Bravo!

Categories: , ,

links to this post  

Recent Changes Camp - a Camp for Wiki Folks

rcc: Camp
"Following WikiSym2005 we agreed to convene a wiki BarCamp in Portland Oregon in early 2006 to provide yet another great space for the community to gather for work and play! We're using OpenSpaceTechnology to create an event that is as open and accessible as possible. We chose the first part of 2006 in order to complement Wikimania2006 and WikiSym2006. This space is also for planning RecentChangesCampEurope 2006 to happen simultaneously."


links to this post  

Welcome to Blogging, Mike

Well hey, here's another blog welcome, this time to Mike Wilkerson. I briefly met Mike and some of his circle of colleagues at MindCamp 1.0. I remember thinking it was cool that a minister was also a geek. I like crossovers! Anyway, I think he was inspired by all the bloggers at MindCamp and jumped down the rabbit hole with use on the 8th of November. Check out Node Glue .

And now as to what led me to discover Mike's new blog. A link, of course, and a really cool one. Mike shared his impressions of me at MindCamp as a way to talk about the impact of in-person interaction and online interaction.

Mike wrote:
So I just want to make the observation that, yes, I might have stumbled onto her blog eventually anyway; my technorati searching would have turned up one of her posts on community or something. Nancy and I didn’t have any significant in person dialogue any more than “hello, nice to meet you.” But there’s something about having been in a shared physical context, a small discussion group at Mind Camp, that changes the way I now interact with her blog. It’s more personal to me.

Mike, thank you for such a lovely set of impressions. You gave me a big smile after a very long day.

Categories: ,

links to this post  

EPIC 2005 Live (and almost live) blogs

Dina is distilling.

The conference official blog. But as of now they aren't tagging, so it doesn't show up on the Technorati feed. I left them a comment suggesting they add the tags so we can aggregate any publicaly shared notes.


links to this post  

EPIC 2005: Tim Plowman

Ethnography, Operations and Objectual Practice
Tim Plowman, Cheskin

OK, I hit my outsider wall. Tim's language is over my head in a way that prevents me from live blogging, plus he is reading a paper directly, and is under time pressure, so his pace and phrasing, along with my lack of familiarity of his vocabulary, provides an beautiful example of why sometimes I can live blog almost verbatim and when I can't. I can't bridge the gap between his pictures and his narrative. I don't know enough to draw meaning.

I also can't get to the point of feeling he is speaking to me, or anyone else, because of his reading of a paper, vs. talking out to the room. Every once in a while he breaks from the text and looks up, adds a clarification.

I realized how much of my engagement is predicated on the speaker's engagement with his or her audience. Good learning for me for future presentations.

I can't now because my brain cannot fill in the gaps between the words I hear and type. I don't have enough context to make sense in my own brain, let alone have that "sense" flow out from my fingers. So I'm going to just listen for this one.


links to this post  

EPIC2005: Stokes Jones

Grass roots campaigning as Elective Sociality (or Maffesoli meets “social software’)
Reflections from the BBC iCan project

Stokes Jones, Lodestar
Was research director at Sapient in London

I’m a freak! Pleased to be following Kris.

We look for the political in the wrong paces, on the wrong pages of the newspaper… Those decision-making areas which had been protected by “the political” in industrial capitalism. (longer quote from Ulrich Beck, The Re-invention of Politics)

I thought this was what the iCan project was all about. This notion of sub politics, which seems more aspirational, … the history of displacement from Beck to Michel

This paper tells two stories: project and personal
Relates experiences emerging from the ethnographic research during the participative development phase of the BBC iCan website
How theory is actually lived

Understanding Grassroots Campaigning

Record low turnout in 2001 British General Election
Found political apathy was widespread (surprise)
Remembered the fuel tax protests of 2000 – truckers and farmers jammed the road and besieged. major reserves of gasoline.

Maybe politics was not gone, just below the radar

Create a website as a listening post for the BBC and enable people’s participation in democracy. Make a difference in civic life. A guide to navigating democracy. Out of two thoughts: “I don’t know where to start” and “ I don’t know how to do it.” Should be biased towards local. Biased towards action.

So they set out to do some research – how do campaigns get started, what kind of people are campaigners, what do they need at various steps of their campaigns.

At this point a lot of tacit theory informs the research. What kind of politics we were studding. Root findings. Axis of politics (government admin), (moved too fast through his image). National Electoral Politics, Grass Roots Politics, National Campaign Groups and the mystery area.

Discounting national electoral politics. Their objects: Issues, activism, movements, policy, social change, shifts in consciousness.

Grass Roots Politics: parties, elections, offices, bargaining, services.

Middle space: local focus, local participation, grass roots campaigns. Objects: situations, events, landscapes local issues, complaints, debates.

Campaigning for or against something. Some of the campaigns changed their valence. Against second homes, for affordable housing.

In depth in-context interviews and campaign office tours
Gathering oral histories of specific campaigns
Co-creating timelines of campaign activities and events
Creating visual experience models of the campaign process to aid iCan’s design and service development.

Process model for grass roots campaigning
Activist profiles
Campaign process timelines
Segmentation model

Now can compare different campaigns systematically. Some campaigns were classic protest. Lots of actions. Some had lots of planning and very little action. Quick vs. slow trigger.

The campaigners quickly understood that the NIMBY strategy was not successful and they quickly changed strategies, leverage points and campaign focus.

The campaign process model: justification for the research. Experience model pioneered by Rick Robinson at E-Lab. Used as foundation of design process. Find areas that iCan could support.

Revealed how intricate the campaigning process is: discovering, deciding, planning, acting. All travel through these stages. Model represents the idea in a visual descriptive forms. Model shows linear and iterative stages, decision points, etc. Planning and acting is represented as a continuum. Providing pressure à new name for protests.

After model was delivered, with the detail and granularity expecting. Then the iCan came back with the iCan system conceptual model. What is the journey between being a passive and an active user? A nugget that reveals the client’s logic. They decided iCan would be the journey. To activate people. The process would be through a number of new media tools. Steps of the transformation: online campaign journal or blog, keeping campaign calendar, filing a brief and interacting with others around the issue. Benchmarked to a similar process – Dr. Seuss – from plain bellies to star bellies. You know what happens.

Conflict: concept testing. Via the process model, we discovered campaigns were made out of unsung moments. The times that don’t involve demonstrating. When the strategizing happens. You decide the next person to call. All those other stages. On one hand there are a lot of things going on that weren’t strictly campaigning tasks. The unsung moments had caused the site concept to get deeper and more complex. Support these moments. A place to save things. Do private messaging within the site. A campaign blogging/calendar tool for other campaigners. Via the process model, they assumed a type correspondence between the campaign stages and the site. A new bias towards comprehensiveness on top of bias towards local and action. We designed a prototype site based on these assumptions.

Test site: 5 campaigners from previous research and 5 of a new group called sympathizers. A lot of campaigners weren’t interested in help, but sympathizers might. Tested through questions, three user journey paper prototyped. Way to ambitious. Too many flags waving. Too many priorities. Campaigners thought it made campaigning look more difficult than it actually was. Only 1 of 5 sympathizers felt the website would encourage them to start a campaign if they were thinking about it.

“I think this site would generate constant RTFM errors.” (Read the F*** Manual) A case of user-centered design gone ary. Delivered opposite of what users wanted. Just because the campaigning process was intricate did not mean we needed to mirror that intricacy in the design.

I.e. polling = “self referential bollocks” The things intended to be political were not popular. The site felt like the BBC reinvented the phone network and now we had to phone the iCan way. The bias towards action were rejected by users. “Its not like delivering the ingredient for a cake and it’s unfair to promise people up front that they will make a difference.” “I’m going to start a campaign today and poof, it happens. Not realistic.

Teleological bias of the site needed to be cranked down a few notches.

The most popular features: search/browse, how to’s, case studies, find people, issue page, initiatives. These were different than BBCs desire not to be a content-centric site and be cool new social software. Campaigners wanted how tos.

Reversal: Meta-Theme
The target was interested in a website about campaigning not a site to ask on it. If we constantly listened to the zeitgeist of social software we’d go against what the campaigners wanted. Users did not want to conduct campaigns online, wanted to work on their own pace, etc. They did not want a hub, didn’t want to save things online, invite in friends. The rating feature common on many social software sites brought indignation. False activity rating. Campaign success = # of messages left on iCan. Designers thought what happened on site would be isomorphic to what happening in real world, but that was not what users thought. They rejected the idea.

The concept of one stop shop was overwhelming for the customer. The temptation to up sell is built into the design logic. Bias towards getting people what we want them to do. Same dynamic, same bias in non profit world.

Even with research, they provided the rationale for the predisposition, especially through the project model, with it’s complexity suggesting a complex site. Did not focus enough on context. Have to reinterpret the data.

Then rediscovered Michele. Experiencing the other, Michel Maffesoli. Experiencing the other is the basis of community. A key attraction of different social groups is simply being together. The focus of interest was less important. This resonated with the prototype results. Explained why campaigners wanted to keep their campaigns in their community. They were getting more than the campaign results from campaigning. Maffesoli’s examples are around music festivals and sports clubs; leisure. But saw the same logic in the campaigning groups.

Syntony (mutual turning in relationships). Describes the…. (missed)

Sue and Dionne were fighting together, every night, “I don’t know what we’re going to do when this is done – Sue. I guess we’ll find some other campaign that needs us – Dionne. Points to the non functional, non purposive elements of campaigning. If you tried to schematize this into a series of processes to be automated, you would lose a good portion of the campaigners. Motivation – key issue is sustaining, keeping them going. The charismatic experience of the campaign creates the sense of mutual obligation to endure.

Phone mast (cell tower) story… won.

Throwback to the past? Idyllic? Campaigns only from traditional, cohesive communities. Lisa had not known her neighbors before, but after more talking in the streets. Seen people act in new ways. Constitutive of community rather than flowing from it. Society can’t be understood by any old rational mechanism. Informed by encounters, situations and experiences.

Elective sociality – groups are formed by linked series of attraction and repulsion shared sentiments, affective warmth, overlapping roles, group allegiance, deeply felt based leaning to “communalized action.”

Object – centered sociality
Many campaigns are about the categorization, management or acceptance of rejection of concrete objects in the human landscape.
More an extension of sociality. Argue it is not a form of politics. Reaching up. Protecting some aspect of one’s life. Not about gaining or holding power. Within grasp, doesn’t require becoming a different person.

I never desired to start a group or be part of a movement. I just see things around where I live that need sorting out and I try to sort them out – Leo

Very little ideological talk.

Varieties of the social – traditional community and community of interest. Site was aimed at the conditions within the community of interest, missed the voluntary, affect based, proximate, localized.

ICan: the campaigner as individual

Community: the campaigner as a person is dependent on others, accepts a social contract

The protocols supported the individual point of view, not community. Moved from a charismatic experience to a form online. Imposing a template that was too individual and too specifically political. Campaigning is an emergent behavior. Not one person. In many cases two people started on the same day and met each other. Many grass roots campaign cannot say who their leader is. The things iCan wanted to do, help people meet each other, would probably already have happened in the community.

BBC got fixated with their biases because they felt it was the most innovative part of the campaign. Understand that. Move to a radically simplified design. Campaigners had their own websites, but they were used for publicity, not for campaign management. Simple bulletin board activity, not cooperative work practices.


links to this post  

EPIC 2005: Kris Cohen

Kris R. Cohen, University of Surrey (UK)
Who we talk about whe we talk about Users
(Usual live blogging disclaimer. A lot of the language used here is unfamiliar with me, so my ability to "catch" is reduced.)

Hello my featureless dark! Let me first thank three people for early encounters of this paper, Rick Robinson, Katrnia Nickol and Nina Wakeford. Thanks for giving a little more time for the presentation of papers.

The general topic is exclusion, the way design reearchers particixpate in certain kinds of exclusion. In a way simple thing to observe. Talk about the way our threoris and methods are implicit in exclusion, what the stakes are in a larger frame; landscapes of possibility. That’s the most important aspect of the argument. Produxts have a far more diverse life than the things we study. Desingers fail to understand.

We all know some part of the story how social and cultural researchers arrived at industry, migrating from university. This is a story of migration. Nothing comes through unchanged. Things adapt and are made to adapt. Metaphor presents questions. How have research methods changed, how have they been forced to change, hybridized, what have they had to give up to fit in, what languages and customs adopted and what are their options for livelihood. Use these questions as lenses to view practice of design research. What theory and method can become in their new home. The answer is the bedrock

In a design setting, especially where design research methods are ideas will come to circulate materially. Theory and method become embodied in products and made public. The products we make are a relay of theory out in to the world. Iterating with a set of ideas embodied in those products.

This feels like a unique place for research and has implications. When people, users, interact with products, they are interacting with ideas about how the world might work. All products body forth a kind of social theory to predict or dictate product use. Design research in industry accepted, they are the closest people come to social theory. If true, it means design research are in the business of designing what is possible. Design or user research is central to this work. Because design research conceived as world making, research and the lives we are researching, are landscapes of possibility. Neutral, not positive or negative.

At it’s most sanguine it names possibility and distinctly political. The stakes of design are quite high, higher than maybe indicated.

I’ll begin in the boardroom. Preparing for a final year of research, the goal was to develop new methods for Sapients research directions. Present options to board. Favorite proposal was to spend a year in a homeless shelter for women and babies. I knew a little bit about how research themes are connected in design research. Study users of X to understand their use of X. We identify a think we want to study, then identify a user of those things. We study mobile phone users, a certain kind, in order to understand something about the phones. The relationship between the what and the who a busy one and interesting. When nothing much, when the who comes self evidently connected to what, it has been rendered invisible and unthinkable. What are the ways that design research constructs the relationship between who and what. About class , race, gender are smuggled into the research we do.

In order to conduct useful research you have to study people who are considered viable market. Young homeless mothers would be excluded. If they are not users of X, they are the wrong people to study if you want to design improved Axis. Common sense. Schematic – forces that suture a who to a what. The choice becomes almost a given and never defended. The structure dictates our choice. The client specifies it. Teen with parents of income of $ - don[t need to say white, heterosexual.; Assumed.

On Being and Not Being a User
By now a certain application might be obvious. The relationship between who and what should be where our research is geared. Matters, in a design setting, this linking is important because the people we choose to study are models for the people we imagine will use the product. All works of the mind contain within them the image of the intended reader (Sartre). In the product I encounter the product of someone imagined as me. Sometimes like, not. The product we create a landscape that is either encouraging or alienating. The experience of the world as an increasingly designed place, the impacts are far reaching. Implications.

The people we chose to study are users; who buy and use the product under study. The concept of users cannot be dispatched with gentler synonyms. (Drawing heavily on feminist writers on technology).

One of the most significant adaptations theory has made in it’s new environment. The concept of user fuses who and what into a kind of abstraction. Can be used as research methods, advertising and marketing slogans.

Homeless mothers rarely get to be considered users. User and non users are determined by others. Companies don’t design products for homeless people. Common sense does this soft work of exclusion. Research methods do the heavy lifting of exclusion. Design research shapes the world we all inhabit, drawn from a narrow use of people chosen as users. We all have to live with the designed products even if we don’t want to purchase them.

Various , … no connections between demographic categories appear distinct when they aren’t. Mobile phone users are far more diverse than research studies indicate. Much happens that is important and studiously ignored.

The examples are going to be academic. They are here because they are accessible, and we can talk about them. In her book, Flexible Bodies, spent time with ACTUP. “My field work has made visible to me that the categories we found so useful are no longer useful. Martin says her experiences of ActUp allowed her to see the politics of AIDS through their experience. The unexpected quality of Who. We can see AIDS as thematically related to immunity and the immune system. But the choice of an AIDS activist org, more political than biological, run by people with and without AIDS, is not expected to be the primary group to study immunity. Not our market. Marginalized others in the broader culture experience of the immune system.

This is not a matter of choosing something surprising or extreme. Companies study extreme users as a more exotic way of linking up who and what. The marketplace defines them as extreme.

Bruno Latour followed scientists to the forests. Not because they are extreme users but because he understood lab practice was exclusionary. He wanted to know what was excluded which allowed labs to be used as labs. Straight and queer cultures are not monovalent, distinct from each other. Elastic alliances, not just interrelationship, but intimate commerce between them, not innocently distinct. What we know about family, home and work, has relationship to sexuality or any of the other oppositions that stabilize the who’s or what’s of a study. Products that do not proceed with exclusionary practices in the products we create.

Characteristic not just of extrinsic, but intrinsic relationships. The self or individual. Women who draw in come and housing support do not experience their lives through those social services. Many women for the months living in the shelter they never invite friends over. By this strategy they do not appear to their friends as residents of homeless shelter, even though their friends know. Thus mobile phones become more important. Take visitors by phone. They help them to create vital boundaries. The women are never simply users of social services. They choose their frames and they avoid the frame of social service users.

To go learn a bout people’s tactics for not being users.

Landscapes of Possibilities
Perhaps problem is use of ethnography in design research. We can speculate on why.; Rooted in the observation of behavior in context. Watches and asks. Need to identify something to watch. A who and a what. And that drives where you go to do your fieldwork;. This dynamic of watcher watched, hardwired into the practice. This version of ethnography has been eagerly adopted by companies wanting to identify a quantifiable who before spending money on research and design.

We flatten out our possible undersigning of both users and mobile phone. We assume their intelligently though the use of the most visible users.

Certain people are ritually ignored. Studies just replicate what was visible.

Foster design research which operates on a means other than exclusion. Thinking of those who can’t and don’t use a product. These contribute to the landscapes of possibility. The exclusions we make matter a great deal.

Final thought. Perhaps something is wrong with the field’s inspiration. Poorly suited to helping the field develop;.

Formulating and conducting our research around expansive political landscapes.

Suggestive Suggestion: Designing for Publics
Think about what we are doing is designing for publics and thus a recreation of those publics. The ways that products circulate materially and symbolically far beyond their users, modes of sociability. Talk about design as part of public life. Ordinary use of public that is trouble. That ordinary sense that public is opposite of private. So implies public space that is open, available and non-intimate. Linked to public spaces.

Talking about something different. Literature on publics is huge. Two qualities. Each is slightly counterintuitive.

1. Publics are less useful described as things that have the quality of publicness. The shift from a space that can be labeled as public to something that designers create. See it as process. Products as factors of things publicness, transformed Riding on a train in the age when walkman emerged and how that changed the experience of that space. Mobile phones in trains. Product entering a public space and impacts that space. Space of circulation.

2. Public action is always unpredictable. Startling unproductiveness. Productive. Helps us notice how reliant our current practice is on predictability. Prophylaxis against unpredictability. User researchers track unpredictability with the goal of mitigating unpredictability and create product what do predict use. Whose get fused to what to enable predictable production.

Mitigation might be a foolish goal. Unpredictability is the public’s greatest power. All products eventually go public. Design research might be about looking at how publics interact with products. Experience – design that… missed … if we think about products as public, impacting far beyond those who buy it. Pollution is one example. This is also true of the circulation and use of products of themselves, regardless if they produce. Airbags designed for males, impact on women and children.

Landscapes of possibility are things design researchers might employ. More subversive about how we link the who to the what in our research.

Q: Do you have any thoughts about getting our clients for the kinds of research your are suggesting? Pay us to be subversive.

A: There’s a growing consciousness about the responsibility of a company to ensure its processes are ethical;. Possibility; growing trend.

A: Continue the EPIC conference every year.

A: One are in convincing clients is through dealing with issues of accessibility. Broaden their perception of who they think their user is.

A: Base of the Pyramid. Idea that there are 5-6 billion impoverished people. If corporations could design services for those people to make their lives better. Even if profit is small, volume could be major revenue stream.

Q: From perspective of sales. I have designed philanthropic services for banks, and non profit foundations. Design may operate in a field that cuts across the for and non profit sector. Companies are interested in their public image and building social capital that would ultimately improve sales. I’m wondering if the implicit assumption that we operate in the for profit sectors does not fully encompass the complexity in which the post modern corporate operates. The intersection between the social needs of the users in emerging markets, and social and financial capital.

A: Of course there are practices that are not exclusionary, even in for profit companies. Not trying to say that capital is evil or the problem. It’s problematic, but what isn’t. We operate in that space. The point of trying to work at the level of practice about how we link up who and what we study, even if they don’t adhere to market logic.


links to this post  

EPIC 2005: Theory

Let's talk: introductory remarks for the theory section
Rick E. Robinson, Ph.D.
Global Director, GfK-NOP

Live blogging disclaimer: I can't fully capture it all and I make a ton of typos. I'll try and come in later and clean it up.

Rick Robinson, NOP World He– has been in the field a long time. He'’s founded the group eLab, which became the exemplar applyinging ethnographic work in industry. Now at GJK NOP worldwide. Forthcoming book dealing with ethnographic praxis in everyday life as it applies to industry.

Very conversation has a beginning, a first voice that says "I am Here"” and imagine the interlocutorcutors. Here becomes a place. A theory paper is one of those places, situating voices and beginning a conversation.

It is one thing to start a conversation with friends and families. You know the gambits toand yourndyour ability to return is assumed. It is another thing to walk into featureless dark and to speak and say I'm here and not knowing whrespondrepsond. Requires faith, fortituvisionisiotin. The conversation we start here today . I ddoubtbt I've even been in a room with quite so many people who’'s mothers don'’t know what they do. With all the alphabet soup, I don'’t think there has been a presentation on theor in the EPIC. Like to take a few minutes to abuse the metaphor of conversation further. If these are the first few papers that say "I am here"
and a few suggestions that come to mind.

Where's here?
It would be unlikely that anyone here would have difficulty defining the disciplines and traditions in which they were trained. Where they work is interdisciplinary. Technology and anthropolgy, computers and ethnography, and knowingly engaged in the definition of a new hybrid field. Like the emergence of molecular biology. That consensual domain formation through the integration and regrounding of disparate practices working on common problems. That doesn'’t apply.

Terms like "“applied anthropology" or "“user studies" don't have the gravitas of other things. A particular approach to a particular setting. Like saying Howard Becker is a cultural interviewer.

There is a space here. It is hard to be heterodox when your doxa is elswehere. We borrow. Work is treated like a field site. Industry is just th epalce where theory is tried out, but not what theory IS about. Theory dropped in from above, getting close, but never putting a foot down. Theory debate, must engage the conversations here, work in this set of gaps. Articulate the space itself which pecularly affect the development of theory. Theory cannot be the frame around the executgion of research when grounded amongst the underpinnings of other domains. Need abody of work in whixh to frame them.

Does the fact that we are doing research on women’s body deoderant mean we cannot acknowledgee we have done it before.

Not a particular definition of what counts as theory. We bring that from our differnet roots. Building a theory is along arc of conversation . Perhaps not so much abot locating, but engaging ourselve where we are now. Baba Ram Dass – Be here now?

Who else is in this conversation?
One of the opporutnities/challenges for theori in this space is there are a lot of parties wating to have this conversation. The number and kinds of backgrounds is amazing. So many of the people began self introductions with “I used to do, but then I” or “I was trained as, but now do.” Multi and interdicciplarny training is assumed. With the respective disciplines from which we emerged. No single dominant voice, butg a nacent community.
Participants: Can’t take them for granted. Many of the epxectations come from the pracxtixes of marketing and marketing research. When someone is a respondent you can end the dialog when you walk out the door and proceed on the fiction that we know them. Run the risk of confusing interrogation for conversation.

Other interested theorists; Stafford Beers 1967 “Decision and Control” – Beers’ dated work, management cybernetics, has a gem that transcends the original context. (IMAGE) Part of the work of theory is to move from cases to consensus, from particulars to generalizations. A reconciliation and testing of explanatory frameworks and models against wha twe see in the world. There is more than one model involved in that procxess. In Applied work we don’t just reconcile our conecptual models, but reconcile the models we build with the insitutions on whose behalf we are doing the investigation.

Instead of management scienc, Beers could have been talking about reconciling a medical model with a patient’s model. That is a nice readjustment of our thinking. On another hand, the notion that the second model of a situation, belonged not to the managers on the shop floor but to the mgmt theorists, from biz school, whose theoretical models had guided the design of the systems he was studying. Bringing two different models together to create a scietnfitic model. The same move we need to move from indisyncratic cases to a model to be useful to the client. The Relationship is between researcher, subject and client, each of whom brings a framework. Clients and client’s frameworks, and which some talk to reluctantly. We study users without hesitations, safe, comfortable and expected. Bugty the value of our work will be judged by the uses of them by the client. Matching the model we make with their model, engaging them in conversation, so rigours formulation, useful, accurate. One of the defining charactarists of this domain.

To do theory in a space you must recognie the actors. That includes clients. There are strings attached. Our work must be effective in a real sense of the word. If we move from analysis to this form of reconciliation of models, a more sustainable way of being here now instead of the vaguely threatening notion of corporate vested interest. Know what clients do with our studies, understand what effectiveness means in an org and to engage with them as much as those we study on their behalf.

3. Why thory matters, especially here.
Metphor flogging. Through the process of analogizing, reforming and testing, all of the models change. Basic conceptions about how things work and what matters – the idea that we are looking to change how our interlocutors are thinking… missed stuff.

Way of talking about design research, Rixhard Buchanan, Design as Inquiry: The Common, Future and Current Ground of Design. At each of its intersection the needs of design research are different.

The vertical axis is clear – what is driving the inquiry. Theory, Practixe, Production. Were we to lay out al the papers oabout ethnography in idustry, the results would not be top heavy on the theory side. The horizontal axis of scope of inquiry presents a different question. Criticism and Creation, Clinical, Applied, Basic. A single case study can be powerful, but a theory cannot be built upon it. It is a limited scope of inquiry. Little reach beyond the immediate for theory to make sense of.

The single most important thing is the Z axis: Future (theory) Present (Criticism and Creation ) Past (History). In this space, the here we are trying to articxulate is that theory of the fugture impacts or conditions the furture. This is in fact, action. We are in this conversastion with the people and orgs who will populate the future with artifacts, tools, ways of thinking. We are actively shaping the future, not just observers. Where there is engagement ehere is power and responsibility. When were we asked to summarize the history of a project without the implicit judgement of changing it. We act at this intersextion in a way that inflects companies who shape power and poitics. We have influenece on the fugture and responsibility for using it. If we only think of theory as the thing we learned in grad school, we miss an important possibility. If we think of theory as only something in research instiatution, we are abdicating power.

One formative line of text made it the perfecxt epigrammatix conclusionof the talk. Edge of anger, optimistic commitment.
“I don’t fuck much with the past, but I fuck plenty with the future.” – Patti Smith Easter/ Babelogue, 1978

Praxis rather than Practice – an important small change. Practice is a good thing. But the simplest translation of praxis is meaningful action.


links to this post  

EPIC 2005 - Introductory Remarks

Warmup – an opportunity to talk about our work. That is yet to be defined. This year the theme is about sociality. We were hoping, looking for “our” understanding, about what the collective has to do in industry. Who better to talk about this than people focused on culture, society and the collective in general?

The program is laid out around 5 parts. The first part this morning about theory with three papers. We intentially opted for a theory section. We go to conference where this is hardly addressed. We’ll have a little lunch break, view posters and Alex Mack has been facilitating that. After lunch we’ll have workshops, hands on experience, get to know each other.

Tomorrow Nina Wakeford is hosting a session on methods with four excellent papers. Finaly tomorrow afternoon Christina Wasson is hosting two sessions on cutting edge material, something we wanted to introduced. Radically cool stuff and new ways of looking at things. Afterwards we’ll have a Town Meeting to look at what we can do going forward. On the EPIC website we’ll have a pdf of the proceedings. They will come out in your Christmas stocking. We also have a blog online. Brian Candy and Tina Bassey, if you don’t want to be blogged, tell them. This is a cool event. A first time opportunity and we are pleased to welxome you here.

Special thankgs to Microsoft, Intel and NAPA. (National Association of Practice Anthropologists).

Categories: ,

links to this post  

At EPIC Today

Today and tomorrow I'm here in Redmond at the Ethographic Praxis in Industry Conference (EPIC 2005). I'm prepared to be a total sponge as this is stuff that interests me. But I know little. Yippee. I love this sort of situation. I'm also thrilled I finally get to meet Dina Mehta, who is presenting. I'm not sure if I'll be live blogging, but there is a nice wifi connection here at the Microsoft Conference Center.

Categories: ,

links to this post  

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Visualizing Katrina's Diaspora

Another great use of visuls/visual thinking: American diaspora - Katrina
The above map was based on more than 40,000 postings on Internet "safe lists" by Katrina survivors. ePodunk analyzed messages containing both the person's hometown and the location after fleeing the storm. Pass your cursor over points on the map to see city names and to click to information about the community.
Map data by Laurie Bennett of ePodunk; mapping by Daniel Shorter.

EPodunk is a cool site. I browsed to a bit about Seattle. I learned that it has only a 3% Italian immigrant base.
[via Bill Anderson]

(Can you tell I'm catching up tonight?? West Wing isn't on.)

Categories: ,

links to this post  

Words + pictures > words alone

Kathy Sierra says it all in Words + pictures > words alone. It has pictures, so you have to go to her blog to read it. But here is the premise:

We’re visual creatures.
It was fun to read the article on the same day I finally caught up with a thread on visual blogs on the online faciltiation list. Take a look at the Color Theory Journal if you want a visual downpour.

Here's what I posted to onlinefacilitation:
I'm very interested in what adding the visual does to our online
communication. Recently Eileen Clegg, who does visual journalism as
part of her practice, started a blog and I wondered out loud in a
comment to her about how she would weave that into her blog (blogs
being typically more text oriented.) I love the visual diary of
Vitriolica 's blog at - While these
blogs aren't strictly about a visual domain as are the ones you
mentioned, they use the visual to communicate.

Flickr's easy "blog this" feature makes this sort of integration
easier as well. When I pick web based discussion tools, one of the
features I look for is inline images to add those right into
conversation. For me it is really a huge enhancement.

(Edit: here's another visually stunning blog, Paula's House of Toast.)

links to this post  

Understanding the term -- and reality -- of "Virtual Communities"

I'll continue my riff on informatics articles. Jeeze, I'm feeling almost academic. :-)

Also in the recent Journal of Community Informations, we have an article on Mapping the Virtual in Social Sciences:On the Category of “Virtual Community” by Serge Proulx and Guillaume Latzko-Toth. The first part IS academic, digging into concepts of discourse, naming, and "three ways to conjugate the virtual." If you want to get theory, start there. If you are a practitioner in online groups, start a bit further down, at "Simulated Communities or Stimulated Communities?"
...First, however, we shall dally on the context in which this notion emerged within public space.

If the origins of the expression “virtual reality” may be situated with relative precision—the term was worked out by computer engineer Jaron Lanier around 1989 (Pimentel & Teixeira, 1993; Woolley, 1992)—the origin of “virtual community” remains as nebulous as its definition. Sandy Stone (1991) attributes the moniker to a group of networking pioneers who created one of the first Bulletin Board Services[4] (BBSs), CommuniTree: “[They] had developed the idea that the BBS was a virtual community, a community that promised radical transformation of existing society and the emergence of new social forms” (p. 88).

We might surmise that the expression “virtual community” appeared as a synthesis between, on the one hand, the growing fascination with the very word virtuality—as much in the popular imagination of engineers as in the imagination of “gurus” like Timothy Leary—and on the other hand, the term online community. The latter was introduced toward the end of the 1960s by two of the “fathers” of computer-mediated communication, J. C. R. Licklider and Robert W. Taylor (1968 [1990]), in a visionary text entitled “The Computer as a Communication Device”, and described as follows: “they will consist of geographically separated members (...). They will be communities not of common location, but of common interest” (pp. 37-38).

In all cases, it was through the Sausolito, California-based BBS called the WELL (Whole Earth ’Lectronic Link), founded in 1985, that the notion of virtual community gained rapid notoriety (Hafner, 1997), thanks especially to the widely-discussed book written by one of its most famous members, Howard Rheingold (1993). Rheingold defined virtual communities as “social aggregations that emerge from the Net when enough people carry on those public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace” (p. 5).
The authors then do one of the better jobs I've seen reviewing the emergence of the term and concept of virtual communities. If you are a student of any kind in this area, this paper is worth a read.

Finally, from the summary:
A close examination of current Internet events makes it difficult to avoid the conclusion that new collective forms are in the process of being invented. In these new communities, communal resources are framed, not simply by information, but by the very “presence” of others, be this presence abstract, mental, or paradoxically distant, to borrow a title from Jean-Louis Weissberg (1999). The virtual context of these communities might be grasped through the metaphor of a desert watering-hole, or a “passage point”, in Sandy Stone’s term (1991). It is a precarious pole of attraction where individuals of diverse and divergent provenances “meet”, allowing “unfocused interaction” favourable to the development of collective dynamics to take form.

Unlike classical communities, which are constrained to remain bound by a promiscuity without alternatives, the commitment of electronic collectives is (generally) more fluid. The boundaries are blurred, and so, in a certain sense, their reality may be considered virtual. But let us not fool ourselves: virtuality should not be understood as a distortion of the social, but as one of its aspects, an optical effect of its growing complexity, amplified by its own technological artifacts. That, at least, is one of the ideas that we hope to have pried loose in this brief and limited review of the various uses to which the virtual might be put as a category for thinking through contemporary societies.
This line is worth repeating, in bold!
But let us not fool ourselves: virtuality should not be understood as a distortion of the social, but as one of its aspects, an optical effect of its growing complexity, amplified by its own technological artifacts.

Categories: , ,

links to this post  

Development Informatics Working Papers

After ranting about how poorly we do ICT-related development, I thought it might be worthwhile to link to some papers for Richard Heeks and others.SED - IDPM - Development Informatics Working Papers, which include (from 2003- 2005)

  1. Offshoring to Africa (Richard Heeks).
  2. Overestimating the Global Digital Divide (Richard Heeks).
  3. Is the Communication/Rights Agenda Damaging eDevelopment? (Richard Heeks).
  4. Foundations of ICTs in Development: Pushing and Pulling (Richard Heeks).
  5. Foundations of ICTs in Development: The Onion-Ring Model (Richard Heeks).
  6. Foundations of ICTs in Development: The Information Chain (Richard Heeks).
  7. Reframing the Role of Telecentres in Development (Richard Heeks).
  8. Free and Open Source Software: A Blind Alley for Developing Countries? (Richard Heeks).
  9. ICTs and the MDGs: On the Wrong Track? (Richard Heeks).
  10. 'What Did Giddens And Latour Ever Do For Us?': Academic Writings on Information Systems and Development (Richard Heeks).
  11. Lessons for Development from the New Economy (Richard Heeks).
  12. Analysing E-commerce for Development (Richard Heeks).
  13. Human Resource Development Policy in the Context of Software Exports: Case Evidence from Costa Rica (Brian Nicholson & Sundeep Sahay).
  14. Exploring the Reality of eCommerce Benefits Among Businesses in a Developing Country (Alemayehu Molla).
  15. A Profile of Nigeria's Software Industry (H. Abimbola Soriyan and R. Heeks).
  16. ICT Initiatives, Women and Work in Developing Countries: Reinforcing or Changing Gender Inequalities in South India? (Shoba Arun, Richard Heeks and Sharon Morgan) .
  17. Growth and Formalisation of Information Systems in Developing Country SMEs (Richard Duncombe).
  18. Knowledge and Learning in Online Networks in Development: A Social Capital Perspective (Sarah Cummings, Richard Heeks & Marleen Huysman).
  19. Romania's Hardware and Software Industry: Building IT Policy and Capabilities in a Transitional Economy (Mihaiela Grundey & Richard Heeks).
Now all I need is time to read them. Sigh...

Categories: , ,

links to this post  

Chiller Email Blender

I really should save this for a Friday, but heck, I'm week. Via Denise comes The Chiller E-Mail Blender/a>. Blend and send your words.

The weird thing is what comes out of this things looks an awful lot like what comes out of my brain on a daily basis. SCARY!

links to this post  

Train the Trainers Online Interaction Kit

I blogged about this resource ages ago, but feel it's worth it to point to it again as it is a resource that I believe has value. Of course, I'm predjudiced because I helped create it. The Online Interaction Train-the-Trainers Materials. Here is a bit of history on this project:
Project Harmony has begun to establish a legacy of helping individuals, groups and communities use online communication to address real local needs. Through topical online events, collaborations and partnerships, Project Harmony seeks to support change through the connection of people with shared needs and interests. One way is through the Internet using online communication and community.

Moving to this new way of communicating and blending it with our more familiar face-to-face interactions asks us to try some new things and work in new ways. This guide is designed to help trainers introduce these new ideas and ways to leaders who can then support their own online initiatives. It has been created out of the materials and experiences of Project Harmony staff and Full Circle Associates from 2002 - 2004.

This guide is not meant as a precise, step-by-step set of instructions. It is a toolkit of resources. You can determine what you need and select the appropriate pieces. You can and should adapt any piece to your situation. You may discover other pieces and can contribute them back to this guide, allowing it to become a "living, breathing" resource for connectivity-based interaction in Armenia.

This guide assumes that the user has a base knowledge and familiarity with online interaction. The PowerPoint presentations, for example, do not contain all the content and information, but instead offer you a framework to organize YOUR knowledge and experience.

Categories: , ,

links to this post  

Cisler's 'A Short Movie About ICT'

Worth noting that the latest version of the Journal of Community Informatics is out (Vol. 2, No. 1) with some good looking articles. One caught my eye right away, A short movie about ICT, by Steve Cisler. Riffing off a recent Harper's magazine article about the making of the Iraq war movie, Jarhead, Cisler...
"began thinking about a documentary that would never be made: the life of an ICT project. It is of little interest to most people, any more than a movie about plumbing would capture a large audience. But we are a small, specialized audience so come into the viewing room. This is a rough cut...

The movie begins with an office scene: a few program officers sitting in a meeting room in Ottawa or Washington or London or The Hague or Geneva. It's getting near the end of the fiscal year, and there is some money left in their budget for another pilot project. They know that if it is not spent, it will be hard to justify an increase for their agency in the next budget cycle.
Read the whole thing. Cisler cuts to the heart of the problems of northern-led development efforts that live outside of the full context of the communities and countries being "helped." Politically motivated or well meaning, the type of aid described in this parody is troubling in that we really don't know what we are doing. It's not just one misstep. Read the whole thing. Think about the accumulation of inffective thinking and choices.

As Pogo said (and has been quoted many times) "we have met the enemy and he is us."

Categories: , ,

links to this post  

Resource: National Coalition for Dialog and Deliberation Wiki

The NCDD Wiki is a treasure trove of resoures on dialog and deliberation, including pages on:

  1. the most comprehensive list of participatory practices on the Web
  2. The underlying principles or phenomena of dialogue and deliberation

Unfortunately this is now a locked down wiki due to wikispam. This is the second public resource I know of that has had to lock down. Grrrr....

Categories: , , , ,

links to this post  

Amazon Mechanical Turk - Addiction for the visually oriented

I feel like on of Pavlov dogs. I heard peripherally about Amazon'sMechanical Turk at MindCamp last weekend, but I was in another session when it was presented. But there was so much buzz about it, I had it bookmarked to check out. My husband has to work today, so yes, I'm back online!

AmazonTurk is a smart application from Amazon that uses humans to do the work that humans do best and then fold it into the larger AI engine that drives Amazon. In this case, it is using human's visual process to identify if pictures of businesses are good enough for people to use them to find the business.

I process visually pretty fast, and I think pretty well. So this was like one giant game. I logged on and before long I was humming through the "HITs" (Human Intelligence Task). Before I knew it I had submitted 27, had 18 approved for a $.03 payment and 3 are pending. It's like a game. Uh oh, I'm in trouble!

Seriously, there is interesting stuff going on here. Smarter people will understand it, but us intuitives know something hot when we see it. This is hot. I'm not sure why yet, but I'd bet on it.


links to this post  

Friday, November 11, 2005

Kakupacal - A mind more confused than my own

This is a perfect friday pointer. Sometimes I can't navigate the depths of my own crazy mind. Somehow, skipping into Kakupacal , makes me all of a sudded think of my mind as ordered. Wow! Don't click into this site unless you are ready for a trip!

links to this post  

Internet Scout Project Weblog

For years I was a fan and strong advocate for the Internet Scout Project newsletter. I learned something from every edition and I was sad when it ended. Scout dropped off my radar until today, when I found the Internet Scout Project Weblog. Once again, a stream of interesting internet tidbits to feed the curious. Another RSS feed added to my reader.

Boy, I'm in trouble. Again.

links to this post  

Blog Carnivals and Community Indicators

I've been slacking off on my community indicators meme (well, I was totally slacking off blogging last month!) so when I was alerted to the Carnival of Feminists (Issue No.3) by Sour Duck, I heard the old community call.

First, what is a Carnival? It is a multiblog focus on a particular theme or topic with links to all of the proffered blog posts compiled onto a post on that carnival's host's page. There have been carnivals about cats, cooking and a multitude of other topics. There are even sites for aggregating carnivals! (And here is a post describing blog carnivals.) The inventor of this form is apparently Silflay Hraka.

Sour Duck is calling for SUBMISSIONS: The Carnival of Feminists (Issue No. 3)
"In addition to including general feminist blog pieces, I'm keen to publish thoughts on 1970s feminism, particularly those that focus on connecting 1970s feminism with present-day problems, as well as looking towards the future. As such, I've dubbed this the '1970s into 2000' issue. (Further details below.)"

So if you have a feminist blog post, let Sour Duck know - her post has explicit directions on how to play.

On a more reflective level, are carnivals community indicators? Or are they community catalysts? I sense that they can be both, with the latter being the first phase, and then, when people find each other, community is formed.

Categories: , ,

links to this post  

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Money, Blogging, Women and Me

I started to post this a few days ago and never finished. I told my husband about this and I had to then take him out to dinner since I was so valuable! HAHAHA! All joking aside, it is great to see people like Kathy Sierra with a higher blog "valuation" than some of the big name boys (Tom Peters, somehow I think you would cheer this!)

Anecdote: Who's leading the stakes in the blogosphere? Women or Men?
A recent profile on Women business bloggers only listed about 5 women business bloggers. I was sure there must be more, and I was also curious whether women bloggers are the quiet achievers in the blogosphere…So using a tool which can value blogs I thought it would be fun to look at where women stand compared to a couple (*) of leading male bloggers: Tom Peters and Seth Godin. The results seem pretty clear…
So my blog is worth something in the vicinity of $84 K as determined by this blog valuation tool (which calculates off of inbound links, I think.)

The flippant side of me says, "how can I use that mythical $84 K to invest in a beach home, or better chocolate." But the side of me that probably devalues myself in terms of $$ due to long inbred habits as a woman is smiling. I have only been blogging for 1.5 years. I haven't the guru status of some of the high end folks, yet this crazy, imaginary metric still gives us some sense of how we build "value" via blogging.

The value that has accrued to me is the connectedness blogging has allowed me with other people and their thinking which keeps me on my game. I can't lag: my community keeps me going. That's valuable!

Thanks for the comparison (and thought provocation) Andrew!

Categories: , ,

links to this post  

The Mainlining of Online Conferences

More and more, online events seem to be gaining ground. Where for-fee events were nearlly unsupportable 18 months ago, they are regularly showing up. Producers seem to be developing patterns that make the grade with participants. Yesterday I was pointed to NMC Series of Online Conferences, and I was intrigued by this one "NMC Online Conference on Educational Gaming" December 7-8, 2005 -- via the Internet.
Educational gaming has seemed tantalizingly close, yet somehow not quite within our reach for a number of years. The singular focus of the Online Conference on Educational Gaming, part of the NMC's Series of Online Conferences, is to explore the state of this art, where things are heading, and what might be on the horizon.

This unique online event will include sessions on topics from using games in practice to gaming research, from gaming and engagement theory to implications for multimedia and web design, and more. The event will be conducted entirely live and online using conferencing tools and real time facilitation approaches provided by NMC distinguished partner LearningTimes."
The folks at groups like Learningtimes and iCohere (disclaimer: I have business dealings with both of them) look at online event design from both a techno and social perspective. These online events in theory and often in practice provide more opportunity for interaction by participants with presenters. In some cases, I've seen the participants become the show, much to my joy.

So what happens if we have a "Camp" style conference all online?

Categories: , ,

links to this post  

Atlantic City Rough Cuts

Take smart, inquisitive kids, give them a video camera and some video blogging hints and let the magic fly. Check out Atlantic City Rough Cuts! I love it! They made my afternoon!

[Via Andy Carvin]

Categories: , ,

links to this post  

Maplecroft maps Digital Divide

Much of my work in the past few years has been in the context of "the digital divide." I am leery of that term because it oversimplifies a complex set of conditions that lead to people having less or no access to communications channels we here in the north take for granted. It is not just about bandwidth and computers, but about policy, poverty, and at the core, power. Nonetheless it is an important issue. That's why I appreciated Maplecroft maps, a visual representation of digital divide issue factored with many data sets that help paint this more complex picture. I zoomed into Central Asia to check the stats in the Southern Caucausus countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia (the aging of the data in Armenia is evident. The numbers have shifted as I understand it. So it goes...).

This is a great combo of visual and data. Thanks, Maplecroft!

[Via Andy Carvin, who is looking for a job]

Categories: , ,

links to this post  

EFF: Sony Downloading Spyware to your PC

While surfing today I found my way to the Electronic Freedom Foundation's blog post on Sony BMG "Infections".:
"As we've mentioned before, Sony-BMG has been using copy-protection technology called XCP in its recent CDs. You insert your CD into your Windows PC, click 'agree' in the pop up window, and the CD automatically installs software that uses rootkit techniques to cloak itself from you. Sony-BMG has released a 'patch' that supposedly 'uncloaks' the XCP software, but it creates new problems.

But how do you know whether you've been infected? It turns out Sony-BMG has deployed XCP on a number of titles, in variety of musical genres, on several of its wholly-owned labels.

EFF has confirmed the presence of XCP on the following titles (each has a data session, easily read on a Macintosh, that includes a file called 'VERSION.DAT' that announces what version of XCP it is using). If you have one of these CDs, and you have a Windows PC (Macs are totally immune, as usual), you may have caught the XCP bug."
This, as my kids might say, so TOTALLY creeps me out. It is another indication that we have abdicated our freedoms to the corporations here in the US. We have to find our way back. I'm not buying any more Sony/BMG CDs till this is gone. Time to get out the guitar and get back to making my own music.

Categories: ,

links to this post  

Mommybloggers dish with Grace Davis

First, some of my fellow Bloghers have launched a blog to celebrate and explore the phenomena of "Mommyblogging!" This week they profile a blogger who I love - Grace Davis. In Mommybloggers dish with Grace Davis and the accompanying paen to Grace, In Praise of Grace, you get a glimpse into the humanity of blogging. Here is a snippet:
Grace, have you always been as irreverent, witty, sassy and funny as you are today? In other words, have you always had your voice? Did you spend some time looking for it? If so, how did you find it (your voice, that is)? Because Grace, you have a voice. WHOO-EEE, do you have a voice.

Grace: When you’re one of six kids from a working class, industrial strength Catholic family, somewhere along the line you must develop a keen sense of snark. It’s a survival tool and a preventive measure, useful in keeping one from a slow death by boredom or turning into one of those stoned teenagers slamming against the high school corridor walls.

I can hardly compare myself with the genius of David Sedaris and the deadpan humor of Bill Murray, but they hail from backgrounds similar to mine. Like them, I am spellbound by the absurdities of every day life and can’t resist hauling the weirdness out of the closet to ask whoever is interested, “What the fuck is with the FLOWBEE, people?”

Indeed, I’ve always been a smartass, and I think that’s what you mean by ‘voice’.

Just for the record, the kid says I’m “hella” more sarcastic than all of her friends combined, and they’re fourteen. I like to think of this as a compliment.
I admire Grace not only for her fantastic blog, but for the work she has done these last months with Hurricane Katrina Direct Relief and Family to Family blogs. Doing what she calls "Kitchen Table Relief," Grace has and continues to make a tangible difference in the lives of families hit by Katrina and Rita. All power to the MOMMIES!

Categories: , ,

links to this post  

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Candles, wicks and curiosity

A while back I was riffing off of an Edith Wharton quote about being the candle or the flame. Today I came across another candle metaphor quote:
Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning.

William A. Ward

links to this post  

iKMS CoP Seminar Visual Notes

Another example of visual note taking from a conference session. I like the blend of images and heading. It gives me more of a "sense" of the gathering as much as the "contents." I do wish there were clearer pictures of the whiteboard and flipcharts. I want details! Check it out... iKMS CoP Seminar 23 April 2004

Categories: ,

links to this post - Election Monitoring in Sri Lanka

Just another pointer to the application of online tools for offline needs:
" gives you direct access to the information being collected by agencies monitoring election violence & malpractices in the run up to the November 17 2005 presidential election in Sri Lanka."

Can get daily updates, stories, detailed reports of offences by district, alleged perpetrator and offence.

Categories: , ,

links to this post  

The More Space Project - Take a peek!

I peeked into the The More Space Project site because one of the authors of this new collection of essays, Jory Des Jardins, is a fellow Blogher and all around cool person. Plus I knew most of the other authors by name or reputation, so it was worth a drive by.

I'd say, stay for dinner. I read one of the essays online and now want the book. (Notice, those interested in developing sustainable personal economies, that yes, you can buy the book on Amazon and the authors get 45%, but if you buy directly from them, they get 97%. YES!) Human voices, thoughtful ideas and delightfully, no one taking themselves TOO seriously. Thank goodness!

Categories: , ,

links to this post  

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Habitat JAM :: Another Online Event to Watch!

Well, maybe more than watch -- PARTICIPATE! It looks like the IBM folks are taking their lessons from their internal corporate WorldJam events and lending them to a cause. Excellent! Check out Habitat JAM .
Imagine tens of thousands of people around the world just like you connecting in real time over the internet to discuss and debate some of the most urgent and controversial issues that face a rapidly urbanizing planet. Imagine world-class thinkers leading the discussions. Imagine the results that could be achieved by this unprecedented global conversation and collaboration. This is Habitat JAM.

The Habitat JAM is about adding your voice into the global conversation about the future of our cities. It's about having your say on important issues that affect you. It's about building new global networks of people who wouldn't have connected before. It's about working together across the globe to agree on solutions.

As part of the preparations for the third session of the World Urban Forum, the Government of Canada in partnership with UN-HABITAT is sponsoring this 72-hour internet event. From December 1-3, 2005, the Habitat JAM will gather your input and add it to thousands of others to create actionable ideas for the Vancouver World Urban Forum agenda and influence the Forum's content. "

Categories: , , ,

links to this post  

Welcome to Blogging, Eileen Clegg !

After seeing Eileen's beautiful visual chartings of live events like the recent Learning 2005 event work, I was tickled to see that Eileen has been lured into the blogging world with Eileen Clegg Visual Insight. Eileen describes herself as a visual journalist. I'd say "alchemist!"

Make the poster
Originally uploaded by roland.

As a creature who has emerged from my text-only cave, I suck up the learning I get from visual facilitators like Eileen and Nancy Margulies. I have learned from afar from these women and they have impacted my practice both as a F2F and online facilitator -- any many times in between! I say to Eileen and artists everywhere, MORE MORE MORE -- and teach us!

So Eileen, welcome to blogging! May your experience be as rich and connected as mine has. (And just so you know, I learned this welcoming practice from Seb Paquet! Seb, we miss your blogging!)

Categories: ,

links to this post  

Adagio Teas - A Bloggers Tea Company?

I'm a tea drinker (and you thought I was only a chocoholic) and earlier this year a friend pointed me to Adagio Teas. I was intrigued by their tea making gear and impressed with their selections. At the time, I did not order as my stash was full from a tea-buying spree in Vancouver, B.C.

The name went out of my conciousness till I was reading a message from Sharon Brogan (of SBPoet fame) mentioning that Adagio had developed a way to reward bloggers who posted about their site. Well, as a tea-fan and a blogger, I had to check it out. (Note to all people selling stuff - two things just came into play: recommendations from our networks and a clue you are intersted in some of the same things we are!)

I clicked over to their Help Us Grow page. There they had two offers: rewards for giving them links based on your blog's Google page rank, and Blogger Skins. Nice move.

But then I clicked around more, because beyond liking tea, chocolate and blogging, I love community. And yes Adagio has added elements to convene people who love tea. In fact they have a whole adjacent site, TeaChef. It is brilliant. They profile a certain tea each month. They will send you a sample of the tea to create a recipie to enter into a monthly competition. The comunity votes for the best recipe and the winner gets a "fabulous tea-related reward and the acclaim of the community!"

Further, their copy includes the word "love." And you can feel it when you rove the tea message boards at TeaChat. Again, this element is at a separate but "adjacent" URL. They also have TeaMuse and TeaMap. It is interesting - they are branding around the tea, not their company name. Really interesting.

I'm impressed. Now think about this model as applied to, let's say, disaster relief, or rebuilding the Gulf coast after Katrina. What can we learn from Adagio to help mobilize people for community action?

I think it is something about the love.

Filed in: , , , , , , ,

links to this post  

Monday, November 07, 2005 (video/quicktime Object)

Watch (video/quicktime Object)

links to this post  

Imagination Cubed - Shared White Board

A few weeks ago there was a thread on the Online Facilitation List about shared whiteboards. Just a couple of days ago I stumbled upon this one. Fun! Imagination Cubed

Categories: ,

links to this post  

Full Circle ChocoRemix on SuprGlu

I've always been a duct-tape kind of gal, but today I'm giving Suprglu a spin. Full Circle ChocoRemix on SuprGlu is my first effort to bring all my "feedable" web contributions into one space. It looks like poop, but it will be interesting to see if it is useful. More to the point, it's a great example of how it is becoming easier to mix and remix. Still on the geeky side, but getting easier.

I also tried Blummy today via Liz Lawley. I feel like I'm playing with all those craft supplies in kindergarden. Mmmm...

Filed in: ,

links to this post  

My Frapper Map is now GLOBAL

Thanks to Harold and Koan, I went back and figured out how to zoom out past the US to may my Frappr! map global.

Check out our Frappr!

links to this post  

Camp here, Camp there... HYPERCAMP

The Camp virus is spreading, mutating and all in all, stimulating a lot of creativity. Dave Winer has just anounced H Y P E R C A M P ..
HyperCamp. You don't have to be a geek, just a blogger. Bring your laptop. A long table, lots of connectivity, soft drinks, fast food, and get this -- if you have a story you want to tell, a product you want to announce, an idea you want to pitch, at each end of the room there are presentation stations, with 15 chairs in front, a podium and projector. You sign up to brief. Any blogger who wants to listen can, or not; their choice.
There is something brewing under all of this that hits two chords for me that also reflect the yin/yang, dark/light of our inventiveness.

First is the relationship to Open Space. It extends our sense of what is conversation in open space via blogs and other tools, via connectivity beyond our current geospatial position. Fantastic.

The second is the challenge this presents. Those of us who can leap between F2F and online, between blogs and wikis and whatevers -- how do we still stay in synch with those who are staying (for whatever reason) grounded in a F2F model. What are the costs we incur for our fastness?

Filed in: , , ,

links to this post  

Julie and MindCamp 1.0 Report

Just gotta say - Julie does great event reports. Collaboration illustrated: Seattle Mind Camp 1.0 report. I am biased, I know, because of her interest in community and collaboration. But heck, it's still great stuff!

Categories: ,

links to this post  

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Seattle Mind Camp: Roll Call! (Chris Pirillo)

I mentioned two blogs back the three word introductions and our charting of the words. Here is the audio version via Chris. Seattle Mind Camp: Roll Call! (Chris Pirillo)

I still like Paul's "I like cheese!"

Categories: ,

links to this post  

Others' Notes from Mind Camp

As I did not open my laptop nor blog from MindCamp, I want to note a few of the early reports from others.

Todd Bishop (who, like me, enjoyed the Coffee Hack session) Microsoft Blog - Notes from Mind Camp and pictures!, including our low tech poetry wiki!.

Alex Barnett and Tara, who I've learned are coffee fiends (Great Photos, Tara).

A pair of Erics: Eric Mattson. Eric Butler (aka FireRabbit).

More tracked via Technorati. Pictures on Flickr.

Categories: , ,

links to this post  

Seattle Mindcamp 1.0

After a nice shower and lunch, I wanted to sit down and reflect on the past 48 hours and the first ever Seattle Mind Camp. From 10 a.m. Saturday through noon today, Sunday, around 140 smart people convened in an empty office building to think, share and play together. Many geeks, some proto geeks, inventors, creators, thinkers, risk takers. With an Open Space format, we created our experience, well augmented with food (thanks to our sponsors!), "cool stuff" that people brought to share (tiny lizards, a Segway, a Tango electric car, a wind zapper, etc. etc.), and a warm self-organizing spirit, we had a great time.

Ted Leung has been saying for some time that there are a lot of cool people doing cool things in Seattle, but we don't know each other. Andru Edwards took that thought and rallied a group of us to do something about it with the creation of Mind Camp. The idea emerged right around the time of Foo and Bar camps and we learned from them as we moved our ideas forward.  
We started Saturday with the now-traditional "three word introductions." (Little did I know that a technique some of us have been using to break the ice with online groups for the last 10 years would show up as geek cool again!) I captured all the words on a wall chart, then Ponzi and I copied them on to card stock and created a "Mind Camp Poetry Remix Wall." (Photos on Flickr). I was is neither a particularly cerebral state, nor in a place to live blog, which is my normal habit. I'm glad I steped into this more physical and artistic realm yesterday. It was the right move for me.

We then had a great lunch, lots of getting to know, and filling out our schedule grid. Anyone who wanted to present or convene a session could and did. We'll have the grid up on the Seattle Mind wiki later to give a sense of what we talked about. And from then on the train had left the station. From the looks of it, some folks powered through barely sleeping. I hear there was a wild Werewolf game that started around midnight and ran till 5am.

I deeply enjoyed the sessions on women in technology, coffee hacks (boy, that was great coffee), DeathWalk 1 (personal growth), technology and disaster relief (which kept going till 1:15 am!) and this morning's session on libraries and internet access.

More than the sessions, I was impressed by the warm and open atmosphere. Often when I go to tech related events where I am one of few women (and yes, we need to get more women to these things. Where were some of you who said you were coming??), it takes some work to slide into the group groove. At MindCamp I felt it from the get go. The only cold shoulder I got was some looking-down-the-nose at the fact that I had a windows laptop! But heck, I never even used it. Amazing.

I'll try and write up more, but I wanted to post while the glow was on. At the end of today, we did a check in with "likes" and "changes" for next time. Great suggestions, great affirmation that a good time was had, and the best new idea: A Geek Swap Meet. Andru says we'll do it again in 6 months. Believe me, don't miss it!

, ,  Posted by Picasa

links to this post  

Frappr! Map Yourself with Me!

Via Beth, I had to play with Frappr!, a google map hack that allows you to place yourself on a US map. Beth suggests it might be a nice way to help a distributed group have some sense of where folks are, and if they add a photo, get a "group picture" out of it!

Check out our Frappr!

links to this post  

Saturday, November 05, 2005

New Edition of JCMC: Culture and Computer-Mediated Communications

I was thrilled to see the latest Journal of Computer Mediated Communications come out with half of it devoted to a look at Culture and Computer Mediated Communications. It has direct relevance for me in my international work, but it also is a fantastic resource for those of us who live in big countries and rarely have the chance to understand the context of cross cultural work in our day to day lives, but often encounter it online. Here is the index of the special theme section:

Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication: "Special Theme: Culture and Computer-Mediated Communication
Categories: , , , ,

links to this post  

Friday, November 04, 2005

So No Child Must Wait

An anonymous commenter on my blog pointed me to this non profit blog, So No Child Must Wait, a blog helping its volunteers, donor community and public track their working sending doctors around the world to perform free surgeries on children who would otherwise go without.

What is interesting, beyond the educational aspect of the blog, is that they have set up blogs for each of their locations, projects and trips. It gives more depth to what goes on in each of these trips, how the work and learning progresses.

What I'm wondering how is if/how the surgical teams use these blogs. Are they a support for their community of practice? Do they work together or independently?

Because much of their work is in countries that are not English speaking, is there a way to tie in with locals? Multiple languages? My mind burbles with possibilities!

Very cool to watch and see how this progresses.

Categories: , ,

links to this post  

Welcome to Blogging, Joitske!

My friend and colleague, Joitske Hulsebosch, who I met through CPSquare, has started blogging. And what a delightful start - I finally had a chance to read it today -- take a look at Communities of Practice for Development.

What I'm loving about Joitske's blog is the human voice that takes ideas and makes them useful - little stories around the ideas, examples from all settings (personal, professional). Way to go, Joitske! I look forward to many many more posts!

, ,

links to this post  

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Anecdote: Unconferencing: How should we select our Keynote speakers?

Andrew at Anecdote chimes in on the unconferencing meme (Sorry Andrew, in my comment, I wrote Shawn as I have him associated with the site in my addlepated brain). In Anecdote: Unconferencing: How should we select our Keynote speakers?, Andrew sets out some markers of the last year of blog posts questioning the traditional conference speaker and panel models. Particularly the idea of audience simply as listeners, or receptacles to be "filled" by the wisdom of speakers (my words!)

This is the bit that I was most taken with: potential (or the wasting of it.)
Sitting in conferences I have often looked around at the audience and thought about the incredible opportunity for discovery which lies within. Unconferencing certainly looks a great model for engaging this potential.
Face to face time is one of the most precious commodities we have. There is value in listening together to one person. There is also the value in each of the listeners and their ideas. We need both.

I left a comment on the Anecdote site as well as to forces that work against the unconference model.


links to this post  

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Share: The Birth of a March of Dimes Online Community

Note: This case study or "story" is from Lee LeFever of Commoncraft and I. We created it in part to document the birth of the Share Your Story community, in part to share what we learned, an in part for the Global PR Week event this past September. We are both posting it on our blogs as a sort of "collaborative" share!

In 2004, the March of Dimes created a new online community to support their mission to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality.

With over 7000 members, the Share Your Story online community provides a platform for parents to share information and support one another. The most recent version of the community includes the ability for each member to have a blog, which has added a fascinating and well-adopted dimension to the community’s toolset. This paper is the story of designing and building Share.

The March of Dimes is a large, US nonprofit whose mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality. In 2003, the March of Dimes started its Prematurity Campaign, a multimillion-dollar research, awareness and education effort to help families have healthier babies.

As part of the campaign, the March of Dimes is working to meet the needs of parents who have a baby in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). During this stressful time, parents often find that their peers offer invaluable information and essential support.

Brenda.gif At the same time, the March of Dimes has been inspired by the Howard Dean presidential campaign and other online mobilizations that have used online community technologies to build awareness and cooperation and to raise funds. Why not create an online community to serve the needs of parents who have a baby in a NICU?

Projects like this often require a small and committed group of people to create and follow through on a vision. The staff at the March of Dimes saw the possibility and created a team to generate a vision for the community and build support within the organization to get it started. It worked! In April 2004, the March of Dimes’ new online community Share Your Story began its gestation.

From early on, the team was concerned about scalability and the level of organizational participation that would be required. Team members contacted other nonprofits to discuss online community design and staffing requirements; they used this information to set expectations for managing the community.

Building Share’s Technology

The original vision for Share (as the community came to be called by its members) was to enable members to share their stories and support one another. The online community would provide an inviting, safe, and warm place for members to share personal thoughts.

With this vision and organizational endorsement, the team turned its attention to the enabling technologies. While online discussions were a requirement and the logical starting point, the Share team also saw an opportunity to use weblogs or “blogs” as a platform for members to tell their stories on a continuing basis. The technology needed to handle both discussions and weblogs in an integrated environment. It also had to be customizable to fit March of Dimes Web standards and branding.
Karri.gifLee LeFever of Common Craft worked with the Share team to select a toolset and lay the groundwork. Lee was looking to balance the opportunities of new technologies with usability and the right amount of simplicity. At the time, Web Crossing and Akiva WebBoard both offered the functionality, but the Akiva weblogs were not as mature. The team selected Web Crossing, an established community-platform provider with hosted, customizable discussions, blogs and wikis.

The Share team created a prototype for the community with simple customizations for look and feel. It included discussion boards for the full community, blogs for March of Dimes Ambassador families, and the Dimes Blog, a behind-the-scenes look at the organization.

The team did not initially offer blogs to the entire community because it did not know if members were familiar and comfortable with blogs. No wizard was in place, making blog creation complex. In retrospect, providing some blogs but not opening them to all members may have contributed to their later adoption. Members could see and experience blogs and, at the same time, use discussions as the primary means of connection. When member blogs were added almost a year after launch, they did not compete with discussions, but filled a separate need that discussions could not fill.

With the completion of the site, Share was born on September 1, 2004, and the doors were opened.

Marketing and Opening the Community

As Share prepared for its first steps, BzzAgent donated a “buzz campaign” that provided the catalyst for driving initial membership. The development team invited volunteers and friends of the March of Dimes to log on. March of Dimes public service announcements and materials included information about Share.

Every day, new members joined the community. Connections were made and community was forming. By mid-October, Share had over 1,000 registered members. By Prematurity Awareness Day, a national educational event to raise awareness about prematurity in mid-November, 2,000 members had registered, and many more were visiting the site.

Social Architecture

Share began informally, giving members the freedom to express themselves as individuals. The main areas were Share Your Story, Message Boards, and the blogs.

Like many new community sponsors, the Share team’s first inclination was to build a structured set of discussions and hope that they fit the members’ needs. Instead, they chose to let the members decide the focus. This enabled the community to emerge based on usage, not guesses.

Personal introductions provided a first look at community members, their needs and expectations for the site. When a need emerged, members themselves created new discussion topics.

Melissa.gifAs the community grew and discussions diversified, the Share team at the March of Dimes grouped related topics into new forums, such as Poems and Stories and Feeding and Nutrition. This enabled the navigational structure to emerge based on the needs of members.

In the Share Your Story section of the site, which used the discussion-tool functionality, members described their family’s journey through the NICU. They expressed the joys and sorrows they experienced, creating compelling stories for both readers and writers. Often members would say, “No one knows what I went through except another parent who has gone through it.” These stories were the proof. With over 1,200 stories shared in the first six months, members formed deep and compassionate connections.

Message Boards became a catchall for everything else that emerged: social interaction, medical questions, resources, poems, and March of Dimes events, such as Prematurity Awareness Day. This area quickly grew into a tangle of discussions, many of which stayed active over time.

The early versions of the blogs were the third major feature of the site, but one that existed as a folder, or distinct area, within Message Boards. March of Dimes Ambassador families were invited to start their own blogs. They wrote about their children and their work in helping spread the mission of the March of Dimes. These blogs offered members a window into the organization via its volunteers. To highlight National Prematurity Awareness Day, the March of Dimes created a blog to chronicle the event's activities.


For a range of reasons, most online communities launched by businesses and organizations include moderators and/or a community manager. Because the discussions in Share often focused on medical and psychosocial issues, five March of Dimes health education staffers read every post and responded on an as-needed basis. This ensured that the community had the information it needed and also prevented the spread of misinformation. Early on, the March of Dimes was concerned about the amount of staff time required for moderation. Each of the five moderators reviewed posts one day a week, spending on average 1-2 hours monitoring the site. The site’s community manager also reviewed posts and addressed general community issues.

When it came to ongoing discussions, the moderators looked to the community—and the community led the way, evolving a ”community culture.” Early members became very dedicated and self-policing—solving their own problems. They became community leaders. One group began to refer to themselves as PoPs (parents of preemies). Together, they worked hard to welcome every new member and to respond supportively to each new story.

The March of Dimes team was protective of the community, ensuring that members would not get strong-armed into donation or volunteer streams. In the spirit of community ownership, the staff was also reluctant to get overly involved in conversations, fearing that members would feel controlled or dominated. This hands-off strategy allowed the community to develop successfully, but later the team would learn that their participation was a necessary part of the experience for members.

The Share Team Gets Involved

Lisa.gifAfter the first few months, the Share community matured and stabilized. Share was providing significant value to members, and they were grateful to have the resource. The Share team found that whenever they posted messages, members would respond with multiple heartfelt thank-you’s. This was the first indication that members sought more participation from the March of Dimes.

While the March of Dimes staff initially took a “hands off” approach, a few team members began to get involved in the community, sharing personal information and pictures. Members greeted their participation with incredible warmth, reinforcing the value of March of Dimes involvement.

As time passed, members made it clear that they wanted to have more contact with March of Dimes representatives and to help the organization achieve its mission. Members did not see the March of Dimes as a faceless institution. Rather, they viewed the staffers as teammates, working with them to achieve the same goals.

Share Grows Up – Redesign

At the end of 2004, the Share community continued its growth. It was time to evaluate the first part of Share’s life and consider what was next. Despite some usability issues and organizational problems, members were happily and consistently using the original site. The connections and support they were finding made up for any problems with navigation or design.

Share Home.gif

For the Share community, the technology was secondary to the connections. But the possibilities of improvements were worth exploration and investment. Growth was straining the existing navigation scheme. It was time to explore if a richer design would make a difference as the community grew.

In early 2005, Nancy White of Full Circle Associates joined the Share team. Nancy and Lee evaluated the site and asked the community what they wanted and observed. The team conducted telephone and e-mail interviews with new and experienced members. Feedback on potential features was gathered via discussion threads on Share. This assessment was extremely valuable. Members revealed a number of unmet needs and wants.

For example, members wanted a link to their story or blog to be a persistent part of their Share identity as they found the stories to be a valuable tool for connection. Because of this suggestion, whenever a member creates a blog or short story on the redesigned Share site, a link is added to that person's profile. In this way, a member participating in a discussion can find the blogs and short stories of other members by clicking on their names across the site.

Community feedback became the foundation for a major site update and reorganization. By February, membership had passed 4,000, and the team dug down to create a new integrated look, feel, functionality and social design.

The challenge was to add features and fix problems without disturbing the primary ways the members were using the site. The revised design needed to build on existing strengths and create new opportunities with technological and organizational improvements.

Using data from the users and a thorough site review, the team created a plan to update the site with new, integrated graphics; reorganize the content that was growing out of control; and add the capability for users to create blogs.

“Showing work in progress” was a key practice during the redesign. As artist Susan Lyons drafted a new graphic look, she shared screen shots with the community for feedback. As the development team considered new features, they asked members for their ideas. This exchange provided important input, kept the community informed, prepared members for upcoming changes, and gave them ownership of the work.

Since the redesign, community members have also served as an ever-ready focus group for other March of Dimes ideas and projects. They have become a world of “virtual volunteers.”

Throughout redesign and implementation, excitement was building in the community. In the end, the new design included:
  1. A new look and feel with integrated graphics and icons
  2. A more logical grouping of the site into four major sections (see below)
  3. A focus on member-created blogs
  4. Improved personal information and navigation

The site moved from having two major sections to four, reflecting the emerging needs of the members.

The new sections are:
  • Community Center: A place to get help with the site, find out what is happening in the community, make introductions and "hang out"
  • Share Your Story: A place for members to describe their experiences as a one-time short story or an ongoing blog
  • Parent-to-Parent: A collection of topical discussions important to parents (for example, health issues, coping)
  • Get Involved: A place for members to support the work of the March of Dimes

Building the Blogs

blog image.gifThe addition of member blogs offered a series of challenges. One of them was features. In creating the blogs, what options should the members have? Should a navigation column with a blogroll be enabled? What about blog categories? In the end, the team chose a simple approach with no columns and only two options for the user: the blog title and the URL shortcut.

Another challenge was to customize the Web Crossing blog feature so that it was both easy to use and distinctive from the discussions. Enabling members to easily distinguish blogs and discussions was an important design priority. Through clear labeling, graphic design and communication, the blogs were differentiated and accepted by members as a different resource.

Relaunch and Birthday Party

On July 26, 2005, the new version of Share went live to strong community acclaim. The team originally envisioned a closed beta with a select group of testers. Instead, they chose to do the beta publicly, much like the development process. Members were invited to help identify and squash bugs, which they did in impressive numbers. As with the original version of Share, they were primary owners of the new site, and their participation was essential.

As Share turns one, it is clear that this is a strong, healthy baby. The site is functioning well, and plans are already afoot for another round of tweaks. As of August 2005, membership is nearing 6,000. In less than a month, over 70 members have created blogs. About 100 new people per week are joining the site, and a second marketing effort is being planned.

Most importantly, the members are as dedicated as ever to providing each other with a supporting and caring environment.

This is a message from Darcy which captures her perspective on Share:

The future of online communities for the March of Dimes is bright. The organization hopes to create a Spanish-language site touching on a broad range of pregnancy and birth issues as well as a community for people affected by birth defects. Share is a great model that can be replicated to support other aspects of the March of Dimes mission.

>, , ,

links to this post  

Importance of shared context

I'm snagging this as a pointer, with no commentary (none needed) because establishing shared context is SUCH an important element of successful online interaction/work. From Jack Vinson, Importance of shared context.
Ed Vielmetti writes that shared context is important and that it is getting lost, particularly for people who are all-virtual-all-the-time. He suggests that Memeorandum might be in the direction of a solution for the technology-leaning folk. Memeorandum and the culture of shared text

One of the things that people get when they are in a world where they read the same newspaper is a culture of shared text - you read it, I read it, we can both talk about it without having to go into a lot of backstory.
The blog world for all of its benefits does not generally have shared text as a starting point.

What is shared context? Beyond the community-based context that Ed mentions, there is the shared context of what has happened in a group or organization. There is the shared knowledge of 'how things are done here' that frequently frustrates formal knowledge management systems, or that might frustrate newcomers to the organization. As Ed mentions, newspaper and TV have provided this in the past. As far as I can tell, newspaper readership and viewership of TV continues to drop as there are more sources to absorb people's attention. Even the shared context over the latest Veronica Mars episode doesn't exist like it did for I Love Lucy. Nonaka has the idea of 'Ba' - a combination of shared knowledge and shared physical space - that is usually related to shared context. And there is the general concept of culture and shared experiences that many, many researchers and thinkers have discussed.

What is it about shared context that is so important? I think the key is that shared context facilitates discussions and conversations. The greater the shared context between people, the easier it is to negotiate the interpersonal questions of trust and reputation. The value of shared cultural activities (the big game last night, the company meeting) is in the shared experience and shared sense of togetherness that comes out of them. How many company meetings have you attended that have later seemed more important? Or how many have you skipped and then felt like you missed something? And getting things done in a group setting is all about how much trust people have that the others will hold up their end of the bargain - that they understand what is expected without being explained in painstaking detail.

And blogs? On an individual level, I have met people who I only know through their blogs -- through the interaction of our blogs -- and instantly feel a stronger connection because we've had some kind of connection. Taken larger, when a group of people all read a specific blog (or set of blogs), they become familiar with the topics and language of that blog. That group then have a shared context - possibly limited - under which they can begin communicating and working together. This builds into a community (see Lilia). This applies to other virtual communities as well. In mailing lists and on Usenet groups, one can develop sense of community without ever having to meet. Interestingly, I get the sense that many of these groups are limited in scope to their topic of interest - that they rarely call upon their shared context to work together outside of that defined boundary."
I would like to know more about what you mean, Jack, in this last sentence. Help??

, ,

links to this post  

Welcome to blogging, Brian!

Brian Hsi started a blog back in September, but I'm behind...It's called almost ready for prime time.
This is an ongoing experiment and collection of reflections around the intersection of technology and community, broadly defined. Brian has over six years of experience working in the online community space and currently resides in Seattle.
I'm glad you have started blogging, Brian, and I'm reading!!


links to this post